WASHINGTON The trade deficit widened sharply in May, as stronger U.S. demand pulled in more imports from China and the rest of the world and sluggish growth abroad pushed exports lower, a U.S. government reported showed on Wednesday.
The trade gap swelled more than 12 percent to $45.0 billion from a revised $40.1 billion in April, the biggest month-to-month increase in two years, the Commerce Department said.
Analysts surveyed before the report had expected the May deficit to narrow slightly to $40.1 billion, from the previously reported April figure of $40.3 billion.
The widening of the trade gap could prompt analysts to lower their estimates of second-quarter U.S. growth.
Imports rose 1.9 percent to $232.1 billion, the highest since the record level of $234.3 billion set in March 2012.
May imports, when adjusted for inflation, were a record $167.2 billion, the department said.
Imports from China jumped 10.7 percent to $36.6 billion, on a non-seasonally adjusted basis.
In other signs of stronger U.S. demand, imports of services, autos and auto parts, and food, feeds and beverages also hit record highs, as did total non-petroleum imports.
The U.S. non-petroleum deficit swelled to $41.6 billion, the highest since September 2007.
U.S. exports fell 0.3 percent to $187.1 billion, with increases in categories such as autos and auto parts and capital goods more than offset by a decline in consumer goods, food, feeds and beverages and industrial materials .
The slight decline reflects sluggish growth in the rest of world, particularly in major trading partners like China.
But there were a few bright spots on the export side, with shipments to Canada hitting a record high.
U.S. auto and auto part exports also hit a record high and total U.S. exports were only slightly below the record high of $188.7 billion set in December.
(Reporting by Doug Palmer, Editing by Andrea Ricci)