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Business

US trade deficit lowest in almost three years

Rising exports and lower imports have pushed the United States' trade deficit to its narrowest point in about three years. The latest data reveal the national economy has done much better than estimated.

The US trade gap narrowed to $38.5 billion (28.8 billion euros) in the last month of 2012, the Commerce Department reported on Friday. The figure was way below the $46 billion that analysts had penciled in.

December exports surged by 8.6 billion, boosted particularly by sales of industrial goods. Reflecting the US' increased output of oil and natural gas, petroleum exports rose by nearly $1 billion, reaching a record monthly high.

On the other hand, a fall in petroleum imports saw overall December purchases from abroad decline by $4.6 billion.

Doing better than expected

Trade data for December paints a reassuring and encouraging picture of the US economy at the end of last year," Chris Williamson, Chief Economist at Markit told Reuters news agency.

For the whole of 2012, the US trade deficit dropped by 3.5 percent to $540.4 billion, with exports rising by 4.4 percent and overall imports easing 2 percent.

The latest data from the Commerce Department suggested the US Administration might revise upward its advance reading for 2012 fourth-quarter growth which showed the economy contracting by an annual rate of 0.1 percent in part owing to a decline in inflation-adjusted exports.

hg/ccp (Reuters, AFP)