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The nation's trade gap, which had narrowed markedly in June, to a revised $34.5 billion from $43.7 billion in May, widened again in July. In all, in that latest month for which such internationally based figures are available, the U.S. trade deficit rose to a sizable $39.1 billion.

Breaking the report down to its component parts, we find that exports during July totaled $189.4 billion. That was $1.1 billion less than the $190.5 billion in goods and services exported from our shores in June. At the same time, imports rose to $228.6 billion in July from $225.1 billion the month before.

All told, the trade gap thus far this year has ranged from a low of $34.5 billion in June to a high of $43.7 billion in May. In 2012, by comparison, range was from a deficit of $51.4 billion in January to $38.3 billion in December. Meanwhile, exports, at $189.4 billion in July, were the second highest total of the year, exceeded only by May's $190.5 billion. As for imports, they peaked in February and in May at $230.2 billion each month.

Breaking the deficit down on a three-month average basis, we find the gap holding between $39.1 billion in July to $42.4 billion in January. Overall, the trade imbalance has been coming down more or less steadily since late 2011 and early 2012, as the nation's business expansion has continued to progress, albeit in uneven fashion, during this interval.

Taken as a whole, this was a slightly disappointing report, as the July gap had been estimated at $38.6 billion. What the larger trade deficit to start the third quarter suggests is that GDP growth during this period will have an extra burden to overcome, as the nation's aggregate growth is based on domestic output plus exports minus imports. Still, this was not a game changing metric, and we still think growth, in the aggregate, will modestly exceed 2% during the current quarter.      

At the time of this article's writing, the author did not have positions in any of the companies mentioned.