In a report that will be closely watched by Donald Trump, the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis announced that the US trade deficit in December decreased modestly last December: In the last month of 2016, the US deficit decreased from $45.7 billion in November (revised from $45.2) to $44.3 billion in December, less than the $45 billion expected, as exports increased more than imports.
The goods deficit decreased $1.2 billion in December to $65.7 billion, offset by a services surplus increased $0.3 billion in December to $21.4 billion.
The breakdown: exports of goods and services increased $5.0 billion, or 2.7 percent, in December to $190.7 billion. Exports of goods increased $4.8 billion and exports of services increased $0.2 billion.
- The increase in exports of goods mostly reflected increases in capital goods ($3.3 billion) and in industrial supplies and materials ($0.7 billion).
- The increase in exports of services reflected increases in transport ($0.1 billion), which includes freight and port services and passenger fares, and in travel (for all purposes including education) ($0.1 billion).
Imports of goods and services increased $3.6 billion, or 1.5 percent, in December to $235.0 billion. Imports of goods increased $3.6 billion and imports of services were nearly unchanged.
- The increase in imports of goods mostly reflected increases in automotive vehicles, parts, and engines ($1.6 billion), in industrial supplies and materials ($1.1 billion), and in capital goods ($1.0 billion).
- The change in each category for imports of services was less than $0.1 billion.
Of particular note was the geographic breakdown, something Trump will be especially focused on:
The December figures show surpluses, in billions of dollars, with Hong Kong ($2.1), South and Central America ($1.0), Singapore ($0.9), Saudi Arabia ($0.4), and Brazil ($0.2). Deficits were recorded, in billions of dollars, with China ($30.2), European Union ($12.9), Japan ($6.8), Germany ($5.2), Mexico ($4.6), Italy ($2.8), India ($2.0), South Korea ($1.8), Canada ($1.5), Taiwan ($1.0), OPEC ($1.0), France ($0.7), and United Kingdom ($0.2).
- The deficit with Canada decreased $1.7 billion to $1.5 billion in December. Exports increased $1.0 billion to $22.4 billion and imports decreased $0.7 billion to $23.8 billion.
- The deficit with Mexico decreased $1.2 billion to $4.6 billion in December. Exports increased $1.6 billion to $20.7 billion and imports increased $0.5 billion to $25.2 billion.
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That was the good news; the bad news is that for all of 2016, the goods and services deficit was $502.3 billion, up $1.9 billion from $500.4 billion in 2015, and the biggest going back to 2012.
Exports were $2,209.4 billion in 2016, down $51.7 billion from 2015. Imports were $2,711.7 billion in 2016, down $49.9 billion from 2015. In short, a substantial slowdown in trade all around.
The 2016 increase in the goods and services deficit reflected a decrease in the goods deficit of $12.5 billion or 1.6 percent to $750.1 billion and a decrease in the services surplus of $14.4 billion or 5.5 percent to $247.8 billion.
As a percentage of U.S. gross domestic product, the goods and services deficit was 2.7 percent in 2016, down from 2.8 percent in 2015.