Page last updated at 14:27 GMT, Tuesday, 10 June 2008 15:27 UK

Oil imports increase US trade gap

An oil pipeline
The cost of oil imports has widened the US trade deficit

The rising cost of importing foreign oil caused the US trade deficit to widen in April to $60.9bn, the biggest for 13 months.

Despite healthy export growth, the difference between US imports and exports jumped 7.8% in April.

Crude oil imports alone increased $4.3bn to $29.3bn over the month, reflecting higher prices for fuel on world markets.

The increase wiped out the gains from strong US exports, which grew 3.3%.

Crude costs

Oil is the most important hurdle on our road to recovery
Gilles Moec
Analyst, Bank of America

Analysts warned that the cost of oil imports could rise further in coming months if crude oil continued to climb.

"This is the most important hurdle on our road to recovery," Gilles Moec, an analyst at Bank of America, told the BBC.

"Real issue is oil and the fact that so far, it is not responding to the accumulating signs of a global slowdown," he added.

The US Commerce Department said exports showed the biggest gain in four years, thanks to the weak dollar, which makes American products more competitive abroad.

Fast-growing economies in Asia are consuming more US-made goods, such as commercial aircraft and farming machinery.

Strong American exports have been one of the few bright spots on the US economic horizon.

On Monday, US Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said fears of recession had receded and the economic outlook had improved.

But analysts said the yawning trade gap between the US and China would raise eyebrows, as it increased nearly 26% to $20.2bn.

US lawmakers have argued that the US-China deficit, which makes up the largest share of the total trade gap, is due to what they say is China's policy of undervaluing its currency to make its products cheaper.




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