US goods-trade deficit widens to record $82.9 billion in August as imports surge

  • The US goods-trade deficit widened to a record in August as companies rushed to meet stronger consumer spending with increased importing.
  • The trade gap jumped to $82.9 billion from $80.1 billion, the Commerce Department reported Thursday. Economists surveyed by Bloomberg expected a reading of $81.8 billion.
  • Imports climbed 3.1% to $201.3 billion as US firms took in larger shipments of autos and consumer goods.
  • Exports rose 2.8%, with industrial supplies and food and beverages leading the gains.
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The US goods-trade gap widened to a record in August as American firms rushed to meet growing demand with increased import activity.

The deficit increased to $82.9 billion from $80.1 billion, the Commerce Department reported Thursday. Economists surveyed by Bloomberg expected an August reading of $81.8 billion. Exports of US goods last month increased 2.8% billion to $118.3 billion, while imports leaped 3.1% to $201.3 billion.

The uptick placed imports within spitting distance of their pre-pandemic highs. The swelling deficit foreshadows a prolonged and vulnerable recovery for US trade, James Watson, senior economist at Oxford Economics, said Tuesday.

"A second wave of global virus cases and ever more fragile US demand mean the trade recovery is at risk of running out of steam," Watson wrote in a note.

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The leap in imports arrives as consumer spending gauges slowly track higher amid economic reopening. Shipments into the US were also likely boosted by preparations for holiday season sales.

Industrial supplies and food and beverages saw the biggest increases in month-over-month exporting. Consumer goods and autos led the jump in import activity, according to the Commerce Department. 

Retail inventories for August gained 0.8% to $599.7 billion but remain 10.1% lower from the year-ago reading. Wholesale inventories climbed 0.5% to $637 billion and sit 5% lower from the August 2019 level.

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