US trade deficit balloons in November

The US trade deficit widened sharply in November and posting the highest level in seven months amid a jump in consumer-goods imports, according to Department of Commerce data released Friday.

The US trade deficit expanded to $48.7 billion, up from a revised $42.1 billion in October. November US exports were $1.7 billion more than October exports, while November imports were $8.4 billion above the October level.

Analysts said the surprisingly wide trade gap suggested lower fourth-quarter economic growth than previously thought. On the positive side, the higher imports suggest domestic demand has "firmed," said Barclays in a note.

The trade deficit was well above analyst forecasts of $41.8 billion. Analysts had seen the gap narrowing due to lower month-on-month oil prices.

The jump in imports was especially pronounced in consumer goods (up 11.1 percent) and automobiles (up 6.3 percent). US spending on oil imports fell due to lower oil prices.

The closely watched US trade gap with China fell to $29 billion in November from the October level of $29.5 billion.

The higher trade deficit will translate into a negative contribution to fourth-quarter GDP "as domestic demand should still expand modestly while the world economic activity remain weak," said Julien Thomas, a US economist at Natixis.

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