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Last Updated: Thursday, 10 November 2005, 16:19 GMT
US trade deficit at record $66bn
US oil refinery on Galveston Bay, Texas
Record oil prices have pushed up the cost of imports to the US
The US trade deficit with the rest of the world jumped to a record $66.1bn (37.8bn) in September, as oil prices soared following Hurricane Katrina.

Overall imports to the US rose by 2.4% during the month to $171.3bn, while exports fell by 2.6% to $105.2bn, the US Commerce Department said.

The soaring US deficit came as China reported a record $12bn global trade surplus of its own in October.

The news will exacerbate trade tensions between the US and China.

The higher than expected Chinese surplus was largely fuelled by Western retailers stocking up on products ahead of Christmas.

China deal

Meanwhile, the US reported that the trade gap between the two countries reached a record $20.1bn in September.

We knew that there were going to be some hurricane-related distortions in the September data, but this really exceeded our worst fears
Michael Woolfolk, Bank of New York senior currency strategist

The spiralling deficit fuelled US pressure on China to cut back its clothing exports, leading to a restrictive deal that was signed earlier this week.

September's overall US deficit was 11.2% higher than the $59.3bn reported in the previous month and topped the previous deficit record of $60.4bn set in February this year, the Commerce Department said.

US crude prices hit a record $70.85 a barrel in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, which hit the US Gulf Coast in late August and shut down much of much of the region's oil refining capacity.

"We knew that there were going to be some hurricane-related distortions in the September data, but this really exceeded our worst fears," said Michael Woolfolk, a senior currency strategist with Bank of New York.

Boeing setback

The price of oil imports to the US averaged $57.32 a barrel in September, pushing the deficit between the US and countries within the Opec oil producing cartel to a record $9.1bn.

Imports to the US of foods and industrial supplies and materials also hit record levels during September, the Commerce Department reported.

The fall in the value of US exports was influenced by a strike at aircraft maker Boeing, which hit shipments of jets during the month, analysts said.

"The strike at Boeing in September meant that the aircraft maker only managed to deliver two aircraft to overseas buyers, compared to 26 the month before," said Paul Ashworth, a senior economist at Capital Economics.

"As a result, civilian aircraft exports fell by $2.4bn, explaining roughly a third of the $6.8bn overall increase in the deficit."

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