US trade deficit widens in October on weak exports

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. trade deficit widened more than expected in October as exports declined, likely positioning trade to be a drag on economic growth in the fourth quarter.

The trade deficit increased 5.1% to $64.3 billion, the Commerce Department’s Census Bureau said on Wednesday. Data for September was revised to show the trade gap rising to $61.2 billion instead of $61.5 billion as previously reported.

Economists polled by Reuters had forecast the trade deficit increasing to $64.2 billion in October.

Exports of goods and services fell 1.0% to $258.8 billion. Goods exports decreased 1.8% to $173.5 billion. Consumer goods exports decreased $2.1 billion, led by gem diamonds and pharmaceutical products. Exports of motor vehicles, parts and engines decreased $0.9 billion.

But exports of industrial supplies and materials increased $1.2 billion. At $51.2 billion, capital goods exports were the highest on record. Exports of services rose $0.6 billion to $85.3 billion, lifted by transport, financial and other business services. But travel services exports fell.

Imports of goods and services gained 0.2% to $323.0 billion. Goods imports edged up 0.1% to $263.3 billion, potentially flagging softening domestic demand amid higher interest rates.

Capital goods imports increased $1.8 billion amid rises in computers, drilling and oilfield equipment. Imports of motor

vehicles, parts and engines fell $1.0 billion.

Imports of services increased $0.2 billion to $59.8 billion, supported by a rise in travel.

Trade was neutral to the economy’s 5.2% annualized growth rate in the third quarter. Growth estimates for the fourth quarter are mostly below a 2% pace.

(Reporting by Lucia Mutikani; Editing by Andrea Ricci)