19 January 2001, 16:33  US Trade Data-OVERVIEW

--US Nov trade deficit widens/narrows -1.7% to $33.0 bln
--US Nov goods/services imports -1.1%; exports -0.8%
--US Oct trade deficit revised to $33.6 bln from $33.2 bln
--US Nov goods trade gap $39.0 bln; Oct revised to $39.9 bln
--US November oil imports -7.6%; non-oil imports -0.8%
--US Nov deficit with OPEC nations $3.8 bln; Oct $4.3 bln
--US November imported crude petroleum $28.40 bbl; Oct $28.62 bbl
--US November civilian aircraft exports -8.9%
--Ex-civilian aircraft, US November goods exports -0.7%.
--US November trade gap with Japan -$6.8 bln; Oct -$8.4 bln
--US November trade gap with China -$7.6 bln; Oct -$9.1 bln
--US Nov deficit with euro area $4.3 bln; Oct deficit $4.6 bln
--US Nov deficit with Canada record $4.7 bln; Oct deficit $4.6 bln
By Simon Kennedy, BridgeNews
Washington--Jan. 19--Falling demand for foreign petroleum and capital goods forced U.S. imports down 1.1% in November, narrowing the U.S. trade deficit to $33.0 billion, just shy of October's $33.6 billion but in line with analysts' expectations. Exports also dropped 0.8%, amid decreases in overseas purchases of U.S. capital goods and automobiles.
The November U.S. trade deficit reflected a $39.0-billion shortfall in goods and a $6.0-billion surplus in services.
The trade deficit has now declined for two consecutive months, the first time since summer 1997.
In the year to November, the U.S. trade deficit was $335.9 billion, well above the record $270.2 billion for the entire year of 1999. The trade gap is now on track to set a new historical high in 2000 around $365 billion, meaning the United States buys more than $1 billion more in goods and services than it sells each day.
The deficit has been largely ignored by financial markets, where economists argue it reflects the strong performance of the U.S. economy and the attractiveness of U.S. assets. That line was echoed Wednesday by Treasury secretary-designate Paul O'Neill who said he was not "alarmed" by the trade imbalance.
But more concern could focus on the trade deficit as the economy slows and the stock market trades sideways.
If the economy cools rapidly or stock prices crumble, global money managers may tire of financing the deficit and decide to shift their funds elsewhere, unsettling the dollar, stocks and the inflation-wary Federal Reserve.
Despite the outlook of pessimists, others see the deficit topping out soon as U.S. economic growth decelerates, energy costs reverse and demand from other nations picks up.
PETROLEUM LEADS IMPORTS LOWER
Leading imports lower were declines in both petroleum price and demand. In November, imported crude averaged $28.40 per barrel, down from October's $28.62. Meanwhile, imports of crude petroleum fell to 8.5 million barrels per day--the lowest level since January--from 9.5 million the prior month. Overall, petroleum imports fell 7.6% to $6.7 billion. Reflecting the lower demand for oil, the U.S. trade deficit with OPEC countries slid to $3.8 billion, from $4.3 billion in October.
Excluding petroleum, U.S. goods imports were down 0.8% to a seasonally adjusted $93.9 billion.
Drops of $1.1 billion in imports of industrial supplies, $800 million in capital goods and $200 million in automobiles also weighed on imports. However, while some may suggest the fall in imports provides further proof that the economy is slowing, consumer goods imports rose by $200 million. In the year through November, imports increased 19.4% on a census basis compared with the same period in 1999, or 15.1% excluding petroleum. Also on a census basis, the $1.6 billion fall in November imports marked the steepest drop since February 1991, when imports fell $1.9 billion.
EXPORTS ALSO SLIP
U.S. goods and services exports contracted 0.8% in November to $90.4 billion, amid falling shipments of capital goods, automobiles and foods and beverages. Offsetting these declines, exports of consumer goods and industrial supplies both rose.
--Civilian aircraft exports fell 8.9% to $1.8 billion. But excluding sales of civilian aircraft, goods exports were 0.7% below the prior month. In the year through November, exports increased 13.1% on a census basis compared with the same period in 1999, or 12.7% excluding petroleum.
WHAT WAS EXPECTED
The November trade deficit matched the median expectation of analysts. Individual forecasts ranged from $32.0 billion to $34.0 billion. The median estimate for the goods deficit was $39.5 billion, in a range of $38.5 billion to $40.9 billion.
US TRADE GAP WITH SELECTED COUNTRIES
The U.S. trade position improved with most key trading partners. The government does not seasonally adjust the bilateral trade statistics, so changes in the U.S. trade situation with individual countries may not synchronize with the overall trade gap.
The November report showed the politically sensitive U.S. trade gap with Japan narrowed $6.8 billion from October's record $8.4 billion. The deficit with China fell to $7.6 billion--the first decline in 8 months--from a record $9.1 billion a month earlier.
--The trade gap with the euro-area countries was $4.3 billion in November, down from $4.6 billion one month earlier.
--The November trade deficit with Canada rose to a record $4.7 billion, from $4.6 billion in October. End
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