Page last updated at 14:45 GMT, Thursday, 10 December 2009

US trade gap narrows unexpectedly as exports surge

Shipping containers, Long Beach, California
US exports have picked up, helped by the weaker dollar

The US trade deficit unexpectedly narrowed in October as exports rose to their highest level in almost a year, official figures have shown.

The deficit fell to $32.9bn (£20.2bn), 7.6% lower than September's downwardly revised $35.7bn figure.

Helped by the weaker value of the dollar, US exports increased by 2.6% to $136.8bn, led by civilian aircraft, cars and computer chips.

Imports rose 0.4% to $169.8bn. Analysts had expected the deficit to widen.

On average, analysts had predicted the deficit to expand to $36.8bn.

The value of US exports was the highest since November 2008, the figures from the Commerce Department showed.

The trade deficit is now expected to widen again in 2010 as the US economy continues to recover and consumers buy more imported goods.

Chinese concerns

The US's closely-watched deficit with China widened by 2.5% in October to $22.7bn, the highest level in almost a year.

This came despite US exports to China hitting an all-time high, as Chinese-made goods coming in the other direction also continued to rise.

The US has long accused China of keeping its currency artificially low to boost its exports.

On his visit to China last month, President Barack Obama reiterated US calls for Beijing to allow the yuan to rise in value against the dollar.

China continues to maintain that it will eventually allow the yuan to increase, but only when domestic demand for its products rises sufficiently to take up the slack of any resulting decline in exports.

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