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Last Updated: Friday, 12 December, 2003, 22:31 GMT
US trade gap widens to new record
The US trade deficit has gone up again.
America's trade deficit has hit a new record annual high of $490.8bn.

The figure, much worse than last year's $418.04bn, comes after October's rise of $41.77bn - the highest since March.

A separate report, meanwhile, showed that tax cuts and the cost of keeping troops in Iraq will mean the biggest ever budget deficit this year.

Investor concerns about the deficits have come to the fore in recent weeks, pushing the dollar to a record low against the euro on Friday.

Bad news

Although expected, the latest trade data is bad news for President George W Bush, as it follows 40 straight months of jobs losses in manufacturing.

His administration has consistently blamed cheap Chinese imports for the deficit, and the latest figures show these now total a record $16.43bn.

Even though the trade deficit between the US and China now stands at $13.6bn against America, the US is also exporting more goods to China.

It has led to the US to threaten China with a number of import tariffs, and strong calls for the Chinese to lower the value of the yuan.

Export growth

The US trade deficit with Japan was up an even sharper 25.4% to $6.44bn.

But despite the overall deficit, US exports have actually been increasing.

Aided by a weakening in the dollar, which makes American goods cheaper overseas, US exports were up by 2.6% to $87.96bn in October.

Economist Sal Guatieri, from BMO Financial Group, said: "The main culprit is imports expanding, largely because of the accelerating US economy and perhaps still an overvalued US dollar.

"It likely means the dollar will need to fall further to stabilize the US trade imbalance."

Dollar's drop

"Going forward it appears the US economy will outpace most other industrial regions of the world, which means we are bound to see further deterioration in the US trade balance," he said.

"That ultimately will weigh on the US dollar further."

The currency dropped to $1.23 per euro during Friday, it's lowest ever.

In November, the government's spending shortfall totalled $43bn.

While that is less than in November last year, the total deficit in the first 11 months of the year was a record $375bn.

And economists are forecasting it will continue widening.

The University of Michigan's December reading on consumer sentiment, meanwhile, came in at 89.6, far below the forecasted 96.


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