U.S. trade deficit widens in May on rising imports

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Imported automobiles are parked in a lot at the port of Newark New Jersey, U.S., February 19, 2019. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz/File Photo

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WASHINGTON, July 1 (Reuters) - The U.S. trade deficit increased in May as efforts by business to rebuild inventories amid booming demand pulled in imports.

The Commerce Department said on Friday that the trade gap rose 3.1% to $71.2 billion in May. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast a $71.4 billion deficit.

Goods imports rose 1.2% to $234.7 billion. Massive fiscal stimulus and a reopening economy, thanks to vaccinations against COVID-19, are fueling demand for goods and services. Raw material shortages are hampering production. Business inventories were drawn down in the first quarter.

Exports of goods gained 0.3% to $145.5 billion, a record high. With the United States leading the global economic recovery from the pandemic recession, the trade deficit has subtracted from gross domestic product growth for three straight quarters. The trend likely persisted into the second quarter.

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Reporting By Lucia Mutikani; Editing by Andrew Heavens

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