The U.S. Department of Commerce reported on Thursday that the trade deficit widened from -$38.5 billion in December to -$44.8 billion in January, a 16.4 percent increase. Total January exports were $184.5 billion, a 1.1 percent month-over-month decline, while imports increased 1.8 percent to $228.9 billion.
The results are worse than the consensus estimate that expected the deficit to widen to $43.0 billion, but not worth invoking a red alert over. The unexpected worsening of the trade gap was led by the petroleum deficit, which grew from $18.6 billion to $24.3 billion. On the other side of the fence, the services surplus edged down slightly, from $17.9 billion to $17.3 billion.
January’s figures indicated that trade will be an anchor for first-quarter GDP growth. This is a contrast to December’s trade figures, which were a factor in the upward revision in fourth-quarter GDP estimates.