WASHINGTON: The US trade deficit hit a 10-year high in October as Americans used a stronger dollar to snap up record imports, the government reported Thursday.
The result showed the trade gap has continued to swell despite the punitive tariffs imposed this year on allies and adversaries alike by US President Donald Trump, who has focused intently on the subject with the goal of reducing the deficit.
Amid Trump’s high-stakes trade war with Beijing, the total trade gap rose 1.7% to US$55.5 billion, driven by all-time high imports, according to the Commerce Department.
The gap in goods trade with China likewise continued to expand, rising 2% to US$38 billion, seasonally adjusted, as key exports like soybeans fell.
The October figure handily overshot analyst expectations, and could confirm weaker economic growth in the final quarter of 2018.
Americans bought more medications and imported autos while also taking more vacations, benefiting from the stronger US currency.
Travel by Americans also rose by US$200 million, driving up US services imports to a record US$46.9 billion.
The deficit in goods also was the highest on record at more than US$78 billion, as US imports of goods and services hit a high as well, rising 1.5% to US$266.5 billion.
Auto imports — another subject on which Trump is battling European leaders — likewise hit their highest level ever, at US$31.8 billion.
From January to October, the total trade deficit rose more than 11% compared to the same period last year, and the gap in September was $555 million bigger than initially reported.
Long-suffering soy exports, victim of China’s retaliatory tariffs since July, fell by another US$800 million in October while exports of aircraft and parts, also sensitive to trade relations, fell US$600 million.
Meanwhile, there were declines in imports of computers and telecommunications equipment but not enough to offset the strong gains in pharmaceutical and auto imports for the month.