The nation's trade balance, the difference between what the United States exports and what it imports into the country, became even more unfavorable during November, the latest month for which such internationally derived metrics are available.
In all, our nation's international trade deficit in goods and services increased to $48.7 billion in November. That compared most unfavorably with the $42.1 billion shortfall in October. Expectations had been for a further drop to $41.2 billion in November. Clearly, such expectations were well off of the mark.
In total, exports increased to $182.6 billion in November from $180.8 billion in October. However, imports exploded upward, climbing to $231.3 billion in November from $222.9 billion during the month before.
For once, though, the basic cause of the increase in the imbalance was not petroleum. In November, it was largely the fault of such non-petroleum imports as cell phones, which hit a record high during the month. In all, imports were up a strong 3.8% in November. Interestingly, though, our trade gap with China, one of our country's largest trading partners, and the source of a good deal of the expanding deficit, narrowed somewhat during the most recent reporting month. Overall, exports to China fell by 2.1% in November, while imports from that fast-growing economic powerhouse, also dipped, falling by 1.8%. China is the world's second largest economy, having passed Japan more than a year ago.
However, the trade gap with Canada, which is a big exporter of petroleum, spiked in November ballooning by 73%, to $3.00 billion. The trade deficit with the euro zone also rose sharply, climbing nearly 20% during the latest reporting month. Trading with other partners around the globe was mixed. To wit, the trade gap with Japan declined by nearly 12%, while the deficit with Mexico rose by a like amount.
In all, this was a sobering report, but one that is unlikely to have much impact on our markets, financial or otherwise. The trade news is just not a hot-button issue these days, what with earnings for the fourth quarter now starting to roll in and the deadline for the next fiscal cliff, this one on spending reductions and an extension of the so-called debt ceiling just a matter of weeks away. The drama from those events and the impact on the markets figure to be much greater in those cases.
At the time of this article's writing, the author did not have positions in any of the companies mentioned.