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Tuesday, 20 March, 2001, 14:32 GMT
US trade gap stable at $33.3bn
Mitsubishi car factory in Japan
Foreign car imports contributed to wider trade gap
The US trade deficit widened to $33.3bn in January but is shy of the record levels set last year.

It is the second-highest level on record, reflecting a big jump in imports of foreign cars and energy products.

Analysts had been forecasting the trade gap to rise slightly above December's deficit of $33.2bn, but to be below the record $33.5bn set in September 2000.

The figures from the US Commerce Department show the trade deficit has remained in the $33 billion range for the fifth month in a row, suggesting the ballooning trade balance has stabilised because of slower growth in the US relative to the rest of the world.

Still oil hunger

Imports of energy-related petroleum products totaled 415.5m barrels in January, the highest on record, as crude oil prices dipped to $23.13 per barrel, the lowest level since December 1999, the government said.

Exports in January were up 0.5% to $89.7bn.

The small gain reflected increases in shipments of farm products, and greater exports of industrial machinery, computer chips and accessories and telecommunications equipment.

The gains were offset by falling foreign demand for US cars and industrial supplies.

Asia accounts for most of the deficit with Chinese imports rising sharply but the trade gap with Japan narrowed. Imports from Western Europe rose slightly but sales took a dive.

The deficit for all of 2000 soared to a record $368.9bn, 39.2% above the previous record of $265bn set in 1999.

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15 Mar 01 | Business
US trade gap hits record
19 Jan 01 | Business
Trade data reveal US slowdown
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