Page last updated at 15:03 GMT, Wednesday, 10 February 2010

US trade deficit widens as imports outpace exports

Shipping containers, Long Beach, California
Imports are outpacing exports in the US

The US trade deficit rose to $40.2bn (£25.7bn) in December, official figures have shown, partly due to a 14.8% increase in oil imports.

The December deficit was 10% higher than in November and the largest for 12 months.

The Commerce Department said exports totalled $142.7bn dollars while imports totalled $182.9bn.

But for the whole of 2009, the deficit totalled $380.7bn, the smallest in eight years.

In December, exports of goods and services rose for the eighth month in a row, climbing 3.3%, following strong sales of industrial materials and US-made vehicles and parts.

The recent decline in the value of the dollar against the euro and other major currencies has helped to make US goods more competitive on overseas markets.

Imports were up 4.8% in December, with oil imports rising to their highest level since October 2008.

Economists believe the trade deficit will rise in 2010 as demand for imports continues to outpace export sales.

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