WASHINGTON – The trade deficit in the United States widened in July from an almost four-year low as imports rebounded and exports cooled.
The gap increased 13.3 percent to $39.1 billion from $34.5 billion in June, a shortfall that was the smallest since October 2009, the Commerce Department reported Wednesday in Washington. The median forecast in a Bloomberg survey of 72 economists called for a $38.6 billion deficit. Americans bought record auto imports and more fuel.
A pickup in domestic consumer and business demand will probably prompt U.S. companies to sustain purchases from trading partners in the third quarter. At the same time, slower global growth may weigh on exports as markets from China to Europe struggle to gain momentum.
“Looking ahead, imports are probably going to grow at a faster rate than exports,” said Joshua Dennerlein, an economist at Bank of America Corp. in New York, who correctly forecast the trade balance. “Part of that reflects a pick-up in domestic demand.”
Stock-index futures extended earlier losses after the report. The contract on the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index maturing this month fell 0.1 percent to 1,637.4 at 9:03 a.m. in New York.
Bloomberg survey estimates ranged from trade deficits of $34.8 billion to $42.5 billion. The 13.3 percent jump in the gap was the biggest since January 2011 and followed a 21 percent contraction in June, suggesting the trend is somewhere between the two. The July and June readings were the smallest back to back since late 2009.
The Commerce Department initially reported a $34.2 billion shortfall for June.
Imports climbed 1.6 percent to $228.6 billion in July. The U.S. imported $32.5 billion worth of petroleum-related products, the most since October. Purchases of autos, parts and engines climbed to $26.5 billion, the most ever.
Exports decreased 0.6 percent to $189.4 billion after jumping 2.2 percent in June to a record $190.5 billion. The July reading was the second-highest ever. The cooling reflected fewer purchases of capital goods, including airplanes and engines, and of consumer items such as jewelry.
The trade shortfall excluding petroleum grew to $20.4 billion in July from $17.1 billion.
After eliminating the influence of prices, the trade deficit widened to $47.7 billion from $43.8 billion in June. The reading for July matched the second-quarter average, indicating trade is so far having little influence on third-quarter gross domestic product.