US commerce deficit falls in February as shortfall with China decreases 28%

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The U.S. goods and services deficit with its global trading partners fell to $49.4 billion, its lowest level since June 2018 and well below estimates, the Commerce Department reported Wednesday.

Economists surveyed by Dow Jones expected the U.S. trade deficit in February to increase to $53.8 billion from $51.1 billion in January.

The decline was due in large part to a 28.2 percent decrease in its goods deficit with China as exports to the nation surged. Exports to China rose $1.6 billion to $9.2 billion while imports fell $1.5 billion to $39.3 billion. That brought the total deficit with China to $30.1 billion.

Overall, exports for the month rose $2.3 billion to $209.7 billion, while imports increased $600 million to $259.1 billion.

On a year-to-date basis, the goods and services deficit fell 7.6 percent, or $8.3 billion, from the same period in 2018. Exports rose $11.1 billion, or 2.7 percent, while imports increased $2.8 billion, or 0.5 percent.

The move comes amid hopes that contentious trade negotiations between the U.S. and China soon will be resolved. The U.S. last year slapped tariffs on $250 billion worth of Chinese goods, prompting Beijing to institute its own duties against $110 billion worth of American imports.

Washington also has been engaged in trade talks with Japan. The deficit with that nation rose to $6.7 billion for the month, a 24 percent increase.

President Donald Trump has made reducing the trade deficit a cornerstone of his economic program. The imbalance hit a record $59.9 billion in December.

This is breaking news. Please check back here for updates.

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