Trump Winning? US Trade Gap With China Tumbles To 5-Year Low

The headline US trade balance printed in line with expectations at a $50 billion deficit, marginally 'worse' than the prior month's.

Overall exports increased 1% to $212 billion, boosted by a 39% jump in soybean shipments. Imports climbed 1.1% to $262 billion on gains in oil, food, vehicles and pharmaceuticals. The overall merchandise-trade deficit widened 0.7% to $72.4 billion.

However, likely of more interest to President Trump, the trade gap with China shrank to $20.75 billion in March - the lowest since March 2014, offering the administration a chance to claim his tariff war is yielding the desired results just as negotiations reach a critical stage.

However, as Bloomberg notes, the narrower gap with China obscures a sharp drop in trade between the nations. Imports from the Asian country dropped 13.6% in the first quarter from a year earlier, to $118.8 billion, while exports plunged 17.6% to $27.2 billion. For March, exports were the highest since mid-2018 while imports were the lowest since 2016.

Finally, as USMCA hits more headlines, we note that, on an unadjusted basis, the merchandise trade deficit with Mexico rose to a record $9.5 billion, while the gap with Europe increased by more than half, to $14.2 billion.