The U.S. trade deficit jumped 23% in April to a six-month high of $74.6 billion, reflecting an increase in imports such as cell phones and foreign autos. Exports fell.
The trade gap rose $14 billion from $60.6 billion in March.
Larger deficits subtract from gross domestic product, the official scorecard for the U.S. economy. The trade deficit has bounced around sharply since last year and has had an unusually large impact on GDP.
Key details: Imports rose 1.5% to $323.6 billion in April. The biggest increases were in autos, parts and consumers goods such as cell phones.
Oil imports fell.
Exports fell 3.6% last month to $249 billion. The U.S. shipped less oil and fewer pharmaceutical drugs.
Big picture: The key trend in trade since last fall has been a broad decline in imports from a record high. They peaked at $348 billion a year ago and haven’t come close to that level since then.
Americans are buying relatively fewer goods and spending more on services, for one thing. And a slower U.S. economy has also reduced demand.
The increase in imports in April is unlikely to lead to a sustained reversal in those trends. High inflation and rising U.S. interest rates have dampened demand for consumer goods.
Looking ahead: “Trade was neutral for U.S. economic growth in the prior quarter but will likely be modestly negative for growth in the current quarter,” said senior economist Abbey Omodunbi of PNC Financial Services.