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Wednesday, 17 April, 2002, 12:59 GMT 13:59 UK
US trade gap widens
Cargo ship
US consumers are buying more goods from abroad
The American people's growing appetite for imported cars, televisions and other goods sent the US trade deficit soaring in February, according to the latest figures from the Department of Commerce.

Higher global oil prices also helped push the gap 11.6% wider to $31.5bn (21.9bn), though when oil was excluded the trade gap reached its widest level since records begun.

The growing deficit was seen as a clear sign that the US is heading for an economic recovery.

Economists had predicted a $28.88bn gap, only marginally wider than January's $28.2bn gap.

Soaring imports

Imports rose 4% during February to $110.7bn, much faster than the 1.2% growth in exports to $79.2bn.

This was because the embryonic US recovery was boosting demand for imports while the slower recovery elsewhere in the world had not yet lifted demand abroad for US exports, economists said.

The American people imported $16.5bn worth of cars and trucks in February, as well as $24.4bn worth of consumer goods, and $23.8bn worth of capital goods.

US exports - which suffer from a 30% strengthening of the dollar since 1997 - was healthy for makers of foods, feeds and beverages, and even the sale of US made cars and consumer goods to abroad rose.

But the exports of US made capital goods fell back.

See also:

25 Mar 02 | Business
US recovery 'here to stay'
21 Mar 02 | Business
Inflation prompts US rate rise fears
18 Mar 02 | Business
Fed set to confirm US recovery
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