Record imports from China helped widened the U.S. trade gap more than expected in August, suggesting the two countries were stuck in old patterns of trade despite pledges to put global growth on a more sustainable path.
The monthly trade gap jumped 8.8 percent to $46.4 billion, a Commerce Department report showed, compared to a consensus estimate of $44.0 billion from Wall Street analysts surveyed before the report.
The Commerce Department revised its estimate of the July trade gap down slightly to $42.6 billion.
U.S. imports from China, which U.S. officials accuse of undervaluing its currency to gain an unfair trade advantage, grew 6.1 percent in August to a record $35.3 billion.
The U.S. trade deficit with China also set a record of $28 billion, as U.S. exports to the Asian giant were essentially flat at $7.3 billion. The previous record trade deficit with China was $27.9 billion in October 2008.
The monthly trade report is one of the last pieces of data that U.S. Treasury Department officials will examine before deciding whether to declare China a currency manipulator in a semi-annual report scheduled to be released on Friday.
That pending decision follows a vote in the House of Representatives last month allowing the Commerce Department to slap duties on some imports from countries with a fundamentally undervalued currency, a bill aimed primarily at China.
The huge and persistent imbalance in trade between the United States and China has been blamed as one of the causes of the financial crisis that shook the world in 2008 and 2009.
Overall imports grew 2.1 percent to $200.2 billion, lifted by record amounts of foods, feeds and beverages and the most capital goods since July 2008.
Imports from Mexico and Japan also set records.
In a sign of how far the U.S. economy has bounced back from the depths of the global financial crisis, imports have risen sharply from the August 2009 level of $161.4 billion.
U.S. exports of goods and services edged slightly higher in August to $153.9 billion, the best showing since August 2008. Services exports hit a record $46.2 billion.
Exports to Brazil hit a record $3.4 billion and exports to Mexico were the highest since October 2008. Exports of industrial supplies were the highest in two years. (Reuters)