U.S. trade deficit widens sharply on record high goods imports

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Shipping containers are stacked at the Paul W. Conley Container Terminal in Boston

WASHINGTON – The U.S. trade deficit widened sharply in November as goods imports surged to a record high, suggesting that trade likely remained a drag on economic growth in the fourth quarter.

The Commerce Department said on Thursday that the trade gap jumped 19.4% to $80.2 billion in November. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast a $77.1 billion deficit.

Goods imports soared 5.1% to an all-time high $254.9 billion, likely as congestion at ports eased. Overall imports increased 4.6% to $304.4 billion.

The broad rise in imports was led by industrial supplies and materials. Consumer goods also increased strongly as did imports of motor vehicles, parts and engines.

Goods exports fell 1.8% to $155.9 billion. They were pulled down by decreases in capital goods as well as industrial supplies and materials. But exports of services rose, lifted by travel and transport. Overall, exports increased 0.2% to $224.2 billion in November.

The trade deficit has been a drag on GDP growth for five straight quarters. Fourth-quarter GDP growth estimates are as high as a 7.4% annualized rate. The economy grew at a 2.3% pace in the third quarter.

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(Reporting By Lucia Mutikani)

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