November 2, 2018 / 12:38 PM / in 17 days

U.S. trade gap widens; deficit with China rises to record high

FILE PHOTO: A Maersk Line container ship prepares to depart port in Long Beach, California, U.S. July 16, 2018. REUTERS/Mike Blake/File Photo

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. trade deficit rose to a seven-month high in September as imports surged to a record high amid strong domestic demand, offsetting a rebound in exports.

The Commerce Department said on Friday the trade gap increased 1.3 percent to $54.0 billion, widening for a fourth straight month. Data for August was revised to show the trade deficit rising to $53.3 billion instead of the previously reported $53.2 billion.

The trade deficit continues to deteriorate despite the Trump administration’s protectionist trade policy, which has left the United States locked in a bitter trade war with China as well as tit-for-tat tariffs with other trade partners, including the European Union, Canada and Mexico.

The politically sensitive goods trade deficit with China jumped 4.3 percent to a record high of $40.2 billion in September. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast the overall trade deficit rising to $53.6 billion in September.

When adjusted for inflation, the goods trade gap increased to an all-time high of $87.0 billion in September from $86.3 billion in August.

The government reported last week that the trade deficit subtracted 1.78 percentage points from gross domestic product in the third quarter. That was the most since the second quarter of 1985 and reversed the 1.22 percentage points contribution in the April-June period.

In September, imports of goods and services increased 1.5 percent to $266.6 billion, an all-time high. Imports of capital goods such as telecommunications equipment, civilian aircraft engines and computers were the highest on record.

There were also increases in imports of toys, cell phones, apparel and household goods.

Exports of goods and services rose 1.5 percent to $212.6 billion in September. Exports were lifted by shipments of industrial supplies and materials, which were the highest on record. Soybean exports decreased by $0.7 billion in September.

Reporting by Lucia Mutikani Editing by Paul Simao

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