U.S. trade deficit reaches highest level in 10 months

The U.S. trade deficit jumped to the highest level in 10 months as an improving U.S. economy pushed up demand for imports.
However, exports rose as well, boosted by a weaker dollar, supporting the view that American manufacturers will be helped
by a rebounding global economy.

The Commerce Department reported Tuesday that the trade deficit jumped 9.7 percent,
to $36.4 billion, in November, a bigger imbalance than the $34.5 billion deficit economists had forecast.

Exports
rose 0.9 percent, the seventh consecutive gain, as demand was up for American-made autos, farm products and industrial machinery.
Imports, however, rose a much faster 2.6 percent, led by a 7.3-percent rise in petroleum imports.

The politically
sensitive deficit with China narrowed by 10.8 percent in November, to $20.2 billion, as U.S. exports to China hit an all-time
high. Through November, the deficit with China is still the largest the United States incurs with any country, but it is down
15.9 percent from the same period in 2008.

American manufacturers contend China is unfairly manipulating the value
of its currency to gain trade advantages, a point President Barack Obama raised with Chinese leaders during his November visit
to that country.

Through the first 11 months of 2009, the overall U.S. trade deficit in 2009 was running at an
annual rate of $371.59 billion, down by nearly half from last year’s imbalance of $695.94 billion. That improvement reflected
a deep recession in the United States which cut sharply into consumer demand for foreign products.

But as the U.S.
economy has begun to mount a recovery from one of the worst downturns since the Great Depression, imports have started to
rise. Economists expect that development will continue in 2010 and they are predicting a higher trade deficit as a result.

However, they also contend that the fortunes of American manufacturers will be lifted by a continued rise in demand
for U.S. exports as America’s major overseas markets mount a recovery as well. The fall in the dollar against most major currencies
since the U.S. currency hit a 2009 high last March is also expected to boost export sales.

Economists are looking
for strong gains in exports to help manufacturers and the overall economy in 2010.

For November, the 0.9-percent
rise in exports pushed them to $138.24 billion, the highest level for exports in a year.

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