Trade Gap in U.S. Swells to Six-Year High as Imports Surge

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By bloomberg.com

The U.S. trade deficit widened in March to the highest level in more than six years, fueled by a record surge in imports as commercial activity resumed at West Coast ports following a resolution to labor disputes.

The gap increased 43.1 percent, the biggest jump in 18 years, to $51.4 billion, the largest since October 2008, the Commerce Department reported Tuesday in Washington.

The shortfall exceeded the highest estimate of 70 economists surveyed by Bloomberg. Purchases of foreign-produced foods, capital goods and consumer products all set records, while demand for petroleum dropped.

Container ships streamed into West Coast harbors in March after port operators and dockworkers negotiated a new contract, allowing the flow of imported and exported goods to resume. At the same time, steady employment gains, a nascent pickup in wage growth and a stronger dollar may also help fuel domestic demand for foreign goods, which will keep the deficit wide.

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