There was good news issued on the international trade gap front earlier this morning, as the U.S. Commerce Department reported that the nation's trade deficit had fallen sharply during November, tumbling to $34.3 billion from October's downwardly revised $39.3 billion. (Initially, the October trade gap had been estimated at $40.6 billion. Expectations for November had been for a $40.0 billion trade imbalance.)
Breaking the report down, we see that November aggregate exports came to $194.9 billion, while total imports were at $229.1 billion. All told, exports increased by $1.7 billion during the latest reporting month, while imports were $3.4 billion less than they had been in October.
Looked at on a full-year basis, the November trade deficit was the smallest of 2013 so far, with the December gap to be reported early next month. The November international trade total was just below the $34.6 billion deficit logged in June. The range in 2013 was from the aforementioned $34.3 billion to May's $43.9 billion. In all, the trade deficit has now come down by a third from early in 2012, when the January shortfall had been just above $51 billion.
Much of the credit for the narrowing in the nation's trade imbalance goes to lower crude oil prices. On point, the average November oil import posting price was $94.69. That compares with the October average price for a barrel of oil of $99.96. Prices have been retreating slightly so far in 2014.
Also of note, our trade gap with China narrowed to $26.93 billion in November from October's $28.86 billion. The OPEC trade deficit also narrowed some in November on a month-to-month basis.
Taken as a whole, this was a solid report and one that gives us confidence that the nation's gross domestic product likely rose by at least 2.5% in the fourth quarter, perhaps climbing as high as 3.0%. Although that would be down from the upwardly revised 4.1% third-quarter growth rate, a good part of that advance was attributable to a big jump in inventories. The lower growth rate that we see for the just-ended three months reflects some expectation of a draw down in such stockpiles, which would detract from the total for GDP.At the time of this article's writing, the author did not have positions in any of the companies mentioned.