U.S. trade deficit narrows on falling oil imports

Saturday, January 19, 2002

WASHINGTON -- The U.S. trade deficit narrowed to $27.9 billion in November as oil imports fell to the lowest level in more than two years, the government said Friday.

The Commerce Department reported that the deficit in goods and services narrowed by 4.9 percent from an October imbalance of $29.3 billion.

The gap in goods alone narrowed by 3.1 percent to $33.97 billion, the smallest goods deficit since January 2000. Much of the improvement in that area came from a dramatic 17.4 percent plunge in oil imports, which fell to $6.5 billion in November, the lowest level since July 1999.

Through the first 11 months of 2001, the country's trade deficit was running at an annual rate of $349 billion, down from the all-time high of $375.7 billion hit in 2000.

The Bush administration had hoped to reduce the massive trade deficit by boosting U.S. exports through new trade liberalization agreements around the world.

However, the improvement this year is the result of the country's first recession in a decade. That has cut into demand for imports, which are down 5.4 percent from a year ago.

Exports, because economic weakness in the United States has spread overseas, were down by 5 percent through the first 11 months of 2001 compared to the same period in 2000.

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