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Last Updated: Thursday, 9 November 2006, 14:56 GMT
Cheaper oil narrows US trade gap
Goods about to be shipped from Shanghai
Despite the change, the deficit with China hit a record $23bn
The US trade deficit narrowed by its largest amount in more than five years during September, helped by lower oil prices, official figures show.

US Department of Commerce data showed September's deficit narrowed by 6.8% to $64.3bn (33.8bn) from $69bn in August.

The $4.7bn-narrowing of the deficit was the biggest since February 2001.

Nonetheless, the trade deficit with China widened to a record $23bn as Chinese televisions, mobile phones and toys arrived ahead of Christmas.

Oil bill

The deficit with China has been a politically sensitive issue, as American critics argue that China has kept its currency artificially low in order to boost exports.

September's figures, which came after two months of record deficits, showed that total imports fell 2.1% to $187.5bn as exports climbed 0.5% to hit $123.2bn.

The improvement in the deficit figures stemmed from a $3.1bn drop in America's foreign oil bill, which fell 10.5% to $26.3bn.

Despite the change, the world's biggest economy is tipped to see a record deficit for the fifth year in a row, with the annual total expected to reach $781.6bn, up from $716.7bn in 2005.

The Democrats - who have gained control of the House of Representatives in US mid-term elections - have said they would address the deficit.

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