U.S. trade deficit widens more than expected; cellphone imports jump

Shipping containers sit idle at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, California in this aerial photo taken February 6, 2015. REUTERS/Bob Riha, Jr.

WASHINGTON, June 2 (Reuters) - - The U.S. trade deficit widened more than expected in April amid a surge in cellphone imports, suggesting trade could be a drag on economic growth in the second quarter.

The Commerce Department said the trade gap increased 5.2 percent to $47.6 billion, the highest since January. March’s trade deficit was revised up to $45.3 billion from $43.7 billion.

Economists polled by Reuters had forecast the trade gap rising to $46.1 billion in April. When adjusted for inflation, the trade deficit rose to $63.5 billion from $60.7 billion in March. Trade contributed just over a tenth of a percentage point to the first quarter’s 1.2 percent annualized growth pace.

In April, exports of goods and services fell 0.3 percent to $191.0 billion as exports of consumer goods fell to their lowest level in nearly a year. Food exports, however, were the highest since August 2016.

Exports to China increased 2.2 percent, but the value of goods shipped to Mexico and Canada dropped 10.3 percent and 9.0 percent, respectively. Exports to Germany tumbled 13.3 percent.

Imports of goods and services increased 0.8 percent to $238.6 billion. Cellphone imports jumped $1.8 billion, accounting for the bulk of the increase in consumer goods imports. Imports of industrial supplies, however, fell $1.5 billion, with crude oil imports declining $1.9 billion.

The country imported 229 million barrels of oil in April, the smallest amount since October 2016. Imports of goods from

China jumped 9.6 percent. Imports from Germany fell 4.1 percent.

The politically sensitive U.S.-China trade deficit increased 12.4 percent to $27.6 billion in April, while the trade gap with Germany rose 4.3 percent to $5.5 billion.

Reporting By Lucia Mutikani; Editing by Andrea Ricci