Trump's "Trade War" Is Working: US Trade Deficit Collapses

One month after the biggest plunge in the US trade deficit since the financial crisis - good news for Trump who has engaged in "trade war" with the rest of the world to boost US trader and exports - the good news continued in April, when according to the Census Bureau, the US deficit shrank again, down 2.1% from a revised $47.2BN to $46.2BN - the lowest since September 2017, and beating not only the $49BN consensus estimate, but also also the lowest Wall Street estimate of $46.2BN.

The number was so good, some were wondering why Trump didn't pre-tweet it, as he did with the payrolls report.

Incidentally, with today's revision, the March plunge in the US trade deficit has now risen to $10BN, the highest since 2008, and the second biggest improvement in the US deficit on record.

According to the census bureau, the deficit decreased from a revised $47.2 billion in March to $46.2 billion in April, amid a perfect trade environment as exports rose and imports declined for the second month in a row, or as Trump would say, "his policies to boost US trade worked."

 

Broken down by category, the goods deficit decreased $1.0 billion in April to $68.3 billion. The services surplus decreased less than $0.1 billion in April to $22.1 billion.

The good news: exports of goods and services increased $0.6 billion, or 0.3%, in April to $211.2 billion. Exports of goods increased $0.3 billion and exports of services increased $0.3 billion.

  • The increase in exports of goods mostly reflected increases in industrial supplies and materials ($1.3 billion) and in foods, feeds, and beverages ($0.7 billion). A decrease in capital goods ($1.4 billion) partly offset the increases.
  • The increase in exports of services mostly reflected increases in other business services ($0.1 billion), which includes research and development services; professional and management services; and technical, trade-related, and other services, in financial services ($0.1 billion), and in charges for the use of intellectual property ($0.1 billion).

Also good news, if only for GDP bean-counters: imports declined, decreasing by $0.4 billion, or 0.2%, in April to $257.4 billion. Imports of goods decreased $0.7 billion and imports of services decreased $0.3 billion.

  • The decrease in imports of goods mostly reflected decreases in consumer goods ($2.8 billion) and in automotive vehicles, parts, and engines ($0.9 billion). Increases in other goods ($1.3 billion) and in industrial supplies and materials ($1.2 billion) partly offset the decreases.
  • The increase in imports of services mostly reflected increases in transport ($0.1 billion), in other business services ($0.1 billion), and in charges for the use of intellectual property ($0.1 billion)

Broken down by trading partner, the March figures showed surpluses with South and Central America ($4.1), Hong Kong ($2.2), United Kingdom ($0.9), Singapore ($0.7), and Brazil ($0.6

Meanwhile, the countries that should be worried that they may fall in Trump's trade war sights, and recorded deficit with the US in March, included China, of course, with a $30.8 billion deficit, down sharply from $34.2 billion a month earlier, but also the European Union ($13.2), Mexico ($6.0), Japan ($5.9), Germany ($5.6), OPEC ($3.3), Italy ($2.4), India ($2.0), Canada ($1.7), France ($1.6), South Korea ($1.3), Taiwan ($1.1), and Saudi Arabia ($0.9).

Finally, to help Trump make his economic case even stronger, the US deficit excluding petroleum products: after hitting a record in February, continued its dramatic improvement in April, suggesting that whatever Trump is doing to boost overall trade (we already know US petroleum exports are soaring), may be working, as it shrank from over $50BN in February to just $41BN in April.

And now, we expect even more upward revisions to Q2 GDP, which according to the Atlanta Fed will now likely print above 5.0%