Trade Deficit Snaps Back In January, Larger Than Expected

Tyler Durden's picture

So much for that December plunge in the US trade deficit, which plunged from $48.6 billion to three year low of $38.5 billion supposedly on a drop in energy imports, but in reality was due to a drop in broad imports as the US economy ground to a halt ahead of the Fiscal Cliff. In January, or after the stop gap measure to allow the economy to continue, things went back to normal, with the US returning to doing what it does best: importing, especially importing expensive energy, and sure enough the deficit spiked promptly back to $44.4 billion - it recent long-term average - as exports were $2.2 billion less than December exports of $186.6 billion while January imports were $4.1 billion more than December imports of $224.8 billion. Immediate result: look for banks to trim 0.2-0.3% GDP points from their Q1 GDP forecasts.

Drilling down some more:

The December to January decrease in exports of goods reflected decreases in industrial supplies and materials ($2.6 billion) and other goods ($1.0 billion). Increases occurred in capital goods ($0.7 billion); foods, feeds, and beverages ($0.4 billion); consumer goods ($0.3 billion); and automotive vehicles, parts, and engines ($0.2 billion).


The December to January increase in imports of goods reflected increases in industrial supplies and materials ($4.0 billion); other goods ($0.7 billion); and capital goods ($0.5 billion). Decreases occurred in consumer goods ($0.9 billion) and automotive vehicles, parts, and engines ($0.7 billion). Foods, feeds, and beverages were virtually unchanged.


The January 2012 to January 2013 increase in exports of goods reflected increases in foods, feeds, and beverages ($1.2 billion); capital goods ($1.1 billion); consumer goods ($1.0 billion); and other goods ($0.3 billion). Decreases occurred in industrial supplies and materials ($0.3 billion) and automotive vehicles, parts, and engines ($0.3 billion).


The January 2012 to January 2013 decrease in imports of goods reflected decreases in industrial supplies and materials ($4.2 billion); automotive vehicles, parts, and engines ($0.3 billion); and foods, feeds, and beverages ($0.2 billion). Increases occurred in consumer goods ($1.4 billion); capital goods ($1.3 billion); and other goods ($0.3 billion).

As for the geographic focus, here is which countries were the biggest January trading partners:

The January figures show surpluses, in billions of dollars, with Hong Kong $2.7 ($4.0 for December), Australia $1.2 ($1.7), Singapore $0.7 ($1.1), and Brazil $0.9 ($1.3). Deficits were recorded, in billions of dollars, with China $27.8 ($24.5), European Union $8.6 ($8.7), OPEC $6.4 ($3.4), Japan $6.1 ($5.7), Canada $4.9 ($3.6), Germany $4.2 ($5.4), Mexico $3.6 ($3.9), Korea $2.1 ($1.1), Venezuela $2.0 ($1.3), Ireland $1.9 ($1.5), Saudi Arabia $1.9 ($1.7), and India $1.5 ($0.5)

And as much as it hurts us to crush idiotic memes, the January data shows that rather than indicative of US "energy independence" leading to a trade surplus, and a soaring USD, any times soon, the December plunge in the deficit was merely a politically-driven fluke.

Source: Census

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Glass Seagull's picture

Ah yes...our rampant consumption.

Cult_of_Reason's picture

This morning, Macro Advisers have already reduced GDP outlook to 1.75% from 2.25% secondary to the Obamaquester. Now they will have to cut GDP projections even more.

Great News! Dow to 16,000! Booyah!

Stoploss's picture

Oil imports have exploded.

The only thing this "country" can do to generate any income, is export gas and diesel like there's no tomorrow.

This number will never change.

The number at the pump however, will continue to change until there are no drivers left.

disabledvet's picture

USA is already a net oil producing...something true for some time now. Foreigners in order to maintain a steady supply of dollars which outside of China have suddenly vanished globally are being forced to sell at a loss. It still might be a while before "gasoline as loss leader" returns to the local Conveniient Store but I can see a day in the very near future where the bulk of the American population ditch the internal combustion engine permanently. The geopolitics of oil gave already swung massively in favor of the USA which produces more oil than Saudi Arabia by far. Once you throw in natural gas, distillates, chemical compounding, industrial base, transportation infrastructure, capital infrastructure, zero bound interest rates, political stability (so far), technology supremacy, the idea of a consumer...etc,'s really hard to see what can go wrong here in the next six months to a year. I do agree growth is slowing...but with Europe in free fall and Japan in Dire Straits those are two very significant trading partners that are kaput right now. That leaves Canada and Mexico which while the USA's most important trading partners going on a couple of decades now do not have very large markets to "tap into." in short "this number does not worry me nearly as much as the plunge in incomes number."

yogibear's picture

No problem. Bubbble Bernanke and the Fed plan on paying back anything in declining US dollars.

An overnight collaspe of the US dollar should make those that took the US dollars for hard assets look like fools.

LawsofPhysics's picture

That would require one of three things 1) letting those dollar repartriate or 2) letting those printed dollars actually get to the average person or 3) printing faster than everyone else.  ALL of which Ben seems to be failing at.  With everyone outside the U.S. stuck on their own flavor of fiat I don't see it happening just yet.  Once everyone on earth demands a currency backed by something real, maybe.  Unfortunately, all governments are actively working to keep that from happening.

mayhem_korner's picture



Bingo.  No one is allowed to take a decisive lead in the race to the bottom. 

(To the tune of Anything You Can Do)

Anything you can print, I can print faster...I can print anything faster than you.

Randall Cabot's picture

"One of the longest and most powerful equity bull markets in history turns 4 years old today. And traders believe there is just one man to thank: Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke".

Jason T's picture

Twin deficits are disaster.  Total sellout of our nation.  

Tsar Pointless's picture

And this news sends the S&P futures tumbling up nearly 4 points.

At what level will it be when we learn later this month that the Q4 2012 GDP actually did fall, and fell more than originally reported back in January, and from a revised gain of 0.1% in February, and when we learn in late April that Q1 2013 GDP fell nearly 1.0%?

Predictions: 1600 for the former, 1650 for the latter.

yogibear's picture

In this environment any bad news is good and good news is really good!

One big party with infinite booze which is being supplied by Bernanke and the Fed.

It doesn't matter if destroys the liver.

LawsofPhysics's picture

Damnit Ben, the chinese are printing yaun faster again.  You can do better, set those printers to ludicrous speed!  < sarc off >

Doyle Hargraves's picture

'mericuns back to buying and consuming sh*t we don't need to fuel one deficit with money provided by the debt brotha's entitlement programs which feed the other deficit...(chanting USA, USA!), Idiocracy, anyone?

imapopulistnow's picture

Trade deficit with China = $27.8 billion - $333 billion annualized.  What else u need to know?

mayhem_korner's picture



I wanna know how much more physical gold China has within its borders than the US has.

CunnyFunt's picture

Obviously the "recovery" is gaining momentum. All we need now is a jump in first-time claims to demonstrate our "progress".

f16hoser's picture

I love the way they go back and rewicker the numbers when no one is watching. The charade is ending and it won't end well. Grab a chair and hold on tightly. The music is fading-out fast. Lock and Load.

SheepDog-One's picture

$188 million/hour is for pikers....ramp it to $500 million/hour stawk market fuel and then we'll really be rockin!

thismarketisrigged's picture

this data keeps getting more comical. this looks like a great recovery, lol.


isnt it funny also how the bank stress tests are after hours, wouldnt want to rattle the financials god for bid if something were to go wrong

CunnyFunt's picture

The stress tests are much like new-age hippie schools : nobody fails. It just wouldn't be right to hurt the banks' feelings.

Yen Cross's picture

    Exports are going to get even worse with the strong $. The effed up Fed. pumps money into the global economy and causes inflation, so everyone buys the $ to keep their ccys. cheap.  Bernanke likes cutting off the head to spite the tail.

     Fuck You Bernanke!

yogibear's picture

More debt and deficits are better. Wall Street and the rating agencies like it.

We are at $16.7 trillion. 

Yes we can get debt up to $20 trillion fast.

Wake me up when we have a $25 trillion in debt. 



mayhem_korner's picture



$25 Trillion is a mere three-inch high stack of platinum coins, y'know.  :D

MFLTucson's picture

The reports that are affecting markets are all lies,  No one seems to care and Obama is ok with lying to everyone about everything.  What the hell kind of a country do we live in?

thismarketisrigged's picture

@mfltucson, this is part of the plan. lets have the markets go as high as possible so the media can claim how well of a sustained recovery obama has led.


all of us on zh know though, that obama is the biggest fucking piece of shit on the face of the earth and is arguably the worst president of all time.


we also know that this market is a scam and has no reflection on the real economy whatsoever,


i really wish someone knew how to hack the system and crash it to 0, thatd be so hilarious and fucking awesome.

mayhem_korner's picture

i really wish someone knew how to hack the system and crash it to 0


Oh, they know how to do that...they just need to lure all the sheep in (and they are hedged) before the execute the order.  You can't outrun the pre-programmed HFTs.

overmedicatedundersexed's picture

MFL welcome to the matrix. don't let JCP or walmart get you down, just blips on a robust economic recovery. they have gotten so good they are making that sale to all the eyes wide shut mopes. very sad but nothing will change the elites are running more and more of one's life. adapt and over come should be your motto.