US trade deficit surges to a record high in Feb
April 07 2021 09:10 PM
Container ships seen offshore at the Port of Long Beach in California. The US trade deficit jumped 4.8% to a record $71.1bn in February, the Commerce Department said yesterday.


The US trade deficit surged to a record high in February as the nation’s economic activity rebounded more quickly than that of its global rivals and could remain elevated this year, with massive fiscal stimulus expected to spur the fastest growth in nearly four decades.
The economy is roaring as increased Covid-19 vaccinations and the White House’s $1.9tn pandemic rescue package boost domestic demand, a chunk of which is being satiated with imports.
The aggressive government intervention and the Federal Reserve’s ultra-easy monetary policy have charted a robust growth path for the economy.
The trade deficit jumped 4.8% to a record $71.1bn in February, the Commerce Department said yesterday.
Economists polled by Reuters had forecast a $70.5bn deficit.
The goods trade gap was also the highest on record.
Imports slipped 0.7% to $258.3bn.
Goods imports fell 0.9% to $219.1bn. The drop likely reflected supply-chain constraints, rather than weak domestic demand.
Indeed, imports of capital goods hit a record high, while those of industrial supplies and materials were the highest since October 2018.
“Cargo ships have been forced to anchor outside the Los Angeles and Long Beach ports, where about a third of goods imports come through, as the ports struggle to unload the incoming ships,” said Jay Bryson, chief economist at Wells Fargo Securities in Charlotte, North Carolina.
The United States in February recorded its first petroleum deficit since December 2019, likely because of higher crude prices. Exports dropped 2.6% to $187.3bn.
Exports of goods tumbled 3.5% to $131.1bn, likely hurt by unseasonably cold weather across large parts of the country.
When adjusted for inflation, the goods trade deficit shot up to a record $99.1bn in February from $96.1bn in January.
The so-called real trade deficit is running well above the average for the October-December period.
That suggests trade could subtract from GDP growth in the first quarter, which would be the third straight quarterly drag.
But that is unlikely to have an impact on first-quarter GDP growth estimates, currently as high as a 10% annualised rate.
The economy grew at a 4.3% pace in the fourth quarter.
Economists expect growth this year could top 7%, which would be the fastest since 1984.
The economy contracted 3.5% in 2020, the worst performance in 74 years.
The International Monetary Fund is forecasting the global economy to expand 6% this year, driven primarily by the US economy, which the fund estimated would grow by 6.4%. From the labour market to manufacturing and the hard-hit services industries, activity accelerated sharply in March.

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