Trump Won't Be Happy: US Records Biggest Trade Deficit In 5 Years

In a report that will be closely scrutinized - and criticized - by the trade-sensitive Trump administration, today the Department of Commerce announced that the January trade deficit surged in January 2017, jumping from $44.3 billion in December (revised) to $48.5 billion in January, in line with expectations, as imports increased more than exports.This was the biggest trade deficit going back to early 2012.

The previously published December deficit was $44.3 billion. The goods deficit increased $4.0 billion in January to $69.7 billion. The services surplus decreased $0.3 billion in January to $21.2 billion.

The January increase in the goods and services deficit reflected an increase in the goods deficit of $4.0 billion to $69.7 billion and a decrease in the services surplus of $0.3 billion to $21.2 billion. Year-over-year, the goods and services deficit increased $5.1 billion, or 11.8 percent, from January 2016. Exports increased $13.3 billion or 7.4 percent. Imports increased $18.4 billion or 8.3 percent.

The details, first exports

  • Exports of goods and services increased $1.1 billion, or 0.6 percent, in January to $192.1 billion. Exports of goods increased $1.1 billion and exports of services decreased less than $0.1 billion.
    • The increase in exports of goods mostly reflected increases in industrial supplies and materials ($2.1 billion) and in automotive vehicles, parts, and engines ($1.3 billion). A decrease in capital goods ($1.9 billion) was partly offsetting.
    • The decrease in exports of services reflected nearly offsetting changes of $0.1 billion or less in all categories.

Next, Imports

  • Imports of goods and services increased $5.3 billion, or 2.3 percent, in January to $240.6 billion. Imports of goods increased $5.1 billion and imports of services increased $0.2 billion.
    • The increase in imports of goods mostly reflected increases in consumer goods ($2.4 billion), in industrial supplies and materials ($1.0 billion), and in automotive vehicles, parts, and engines ($0.9 billion).
    • The increase in imports of services mostly reflected an increase in transport ($0.2 billion), which includes freight and port services and passenger fares.

On a geographic basis, the January figures show surpluses, in billions of dollars, with Hong Kong ($3.5), South and Central America ($3.1), Singapore ($1.2), and Brazil ($0.7).

Deficits were recorded, in billions of dollars, with China ($30.2), European Union ($13.4), Germany ($5.7), Mexico ($5.5), Japan ($5.5), Italy ($2.4), OPEC ($2.4), South Korea ($2.3), Canada ($2.0), India ($1.9), France ($1.6), United Kingdom ($0.9), Taiwan ($0.9), and Saudi Arabia ($0.9).

  • The balance with Saudi Arabia shifted from a surplus of $0.4 billion to a deficit of $0.9 billion in January. Exports decreased $0.6 billion to $1.2 billion and imports increased $0.6 billion to $2.0 billion.
  • The deficit with Mexico increased $1.0 billion to $5.5 billion in January. Exports decreased $0.2 billion to $20.5 billion and imports increased $0.8 billion to $26.0 billion.

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It is likely that in his first trade-related moves, Trump will focus on the countries in bold above, as he seeks to reverse what was the worst trade deficit print in five years.