Ahead of the Bell: US trade gap

US trade deficit expected to show slight increase in December and for all of 2014

Associated Press
US trade deficit jumps 17.1 percent to $46.6 billion
.

View photo

In this Jan. 6, 2015 photo, the MOL Competence, a 1036-foot long, 150-foot wide container ship carrying 45,000 tons of cargo, is moored at the TraPac Container Terminal in Jacksonville, Fla. The Commerce Department reports on the U.S. trade deficit for December on Thursday, Feb. 5, 2015. (AP Photo/The Florida Times-Union, Bruce Lipsky)

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Commerce Department reports on the U.S. trade deficit for December. The report will be released Thursday at 8:30 a.m. Eastern.

SMALLER GAP: The expectation is that the trade deficit narrowed slightly to $38 billion in December, according to a survey of economists by data firm FactSet.

EXPORTS AND IMPORTS: In November, the trade deficit fell to $39 billion, the lowest level in almost a year thanks to the country's swiftly shrinking foreign oil bill.

A big decline in the price of oil has helped trim the overall deficit even though U.S. exports have fallen, a reflection of global economic weakness and the rising value of the dollar. A stronger dollar makes U.S. products more expensive in overseas markets and foreign goods cheaper for U.S. consumers.

While economists believe lower oil prices will help the trade picture in 2015 as well, they are still forecasting the deficit will widen a bit as faster growth in the United States attracts more imports while U.S. exporters continue to struggle with the impact of weaker growth overseas and a stronger dollar.

The overall economy grew at a moderate 2.6 percent rate in the final three months of 2014 after turning in a sizzling 5 percent growth rate in the July-September period. Part of the slowdown reflected a swing in trade, which boosted growth by 0.8 percentage point in the third quarter but reduced growth by 1 percentage point in the fourth quarter.

For the whole year, trade was a small negative, trimming growth by 0.2 percentage point. The economy grew 2.4 percent in 2014 and many economists believe growth in 2015 will be slightly above 3 percent, giving the country the best growth in a decade.

The politically sensitive deficit with China, the largest imbalance the United States has with any country, was on track for a record in 2014.

That's created pressure on Congress and the Obama administration to take tougher actions against what critics see as China's unfair trade practices. U.S. manufacturers contend that China is manipulating its currency to keep it artificially low against the dollar as a way to make American products more expensive in China's market and Chinese products cheaper in the United States.

The widening trade deficit comes at a time when the administration is hoping to finally get Congress to approve the fast-track authority it needs to wrap up a major 12-nation trade agreement with Pacific Rim countries known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

The administration sees the trade deal as one of the areas where he may be able to find common ground with Republicans, who now for the first time in his presidency control both houses of Congress.

View Comments (37)

Recommended for You

  • US billionaire says WWII Japanese ship found in Philippines

    Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen said Wednesday he had found one of Japan's biggest and most famous battleships on a Philippine seabed, some 70 years after American forces sank it during World War II. Excited historians likened the discovery, if verified, to finding the Titanic, as they hailed the…

    AFP
  • Central Florida man killed by police serving search warrant

    By Barbara Liston ORLANDO, Fla. (Reuters) - A 26-year-old Central Florida man died after being shot in the face early on Wednesday morning by a sheriff’s deputy attempting to serve a search warrant in a narcotics investigation, authorities said. The Volusia County Sheriff’s Office reported in a…

    Reuters
  • 175-Pound Pit Bull Hulk Shatters Misconceptions About the Breed

    This dog just may be the world's largest Pit Bull. Only 18-months-old, Hulk weighs a hefty 175 pounds. He's also best friends with a 3-year-old boy.

    ABC News
  • Chad president tells Boko Haram leader to surrender or face death

    By Madjiasra Nako N'DJAMENA (Reuters) - President Idriss Deby of Chad said on Wednesday he knew the whereabouts of Abubakar Shekau, the leader of the Nigerian militant group Boko Haram, and called on him to surrender or risk being killed. Chad's army has waged a series of battles against Boko Haram…

    Reuters
  • View

    Turkish jetliner skids off on runway (9 photos)

    A Turkish Airlines jet landing in dense fog in the Nepalese capital Wednesday skidded off a slippery runway but there were no serious injuries, officials said. Officials at Kathmandu's Tribhuwan International Airport said the plane with 238 people on board was coming from Istanbul when the…

    Yahoo News
  • Australians on Indonesia death row arrive on execution island

    Two Australian drug smugglers were taken Wednesday to an Indonesian island where they will be executed despite frantic diplomatic efforts to save them, as Prime Minister Tony Abbott said Australia was "revolted" by their looming deaths. Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, the ringleaders of the…

    AFP
  • France, Cameroon wouldn't take foreigner later shot by LAPD

    LOS ANGELES (AP) — A homeless foreigner shot to death by Los Angeles police was in the country illegally after serving time for a bank robbery but couldn't be deported because no country would take him, U.S. immigration authorities said Wednesday.

    Associated Press
  • U.S. may review 1959 airplane crash that killed Buddy Holly

    (Reuters) - U.S. transportation safety investigators said on Wednesday they are reviewing a request to reopen a probe into the 1959 airplane crash that killed musicians Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, J.P. Richardson, better known as "The Big Bopper," and their pilot. The original investigation 56…

    Reuters
  • Iranian president says Israel 'greatest danger'

    Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Wednesday said Israel creates the "greatest danger" in the region, after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned against a nuclear deal with the Islamic republic. In a speech on Capitol Hill, Netanyahu said Tuesday the nuclear agreement US President…

    AFP
  • Mom convicted of killing son, 5, by poisoning him with salt

    WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. (AP) — A woman who blogged for years about her son's constant health woes was convicted Monday of poisoning him to death by force-feeding heavy concentrations of sodium through his stomach tube.

    Associated Press
  • Former marine reported killed in Syria

    A former Royal Marine has become the first Briton to be killed while fighting with Kurdish forces battling Islamic State jihadists in Syria, leaving his family "devastated" Wednesday. Konstandinos Erik Scurfield, 25, died on Monday in a battle with IS militants, a source in the Kurdish People's…

    AFP
  • Killers sought in deaths of 300,000 chickens in South Carolina

    By Harriet McLeod CHARLESTON, S.C. (Reuters) - Revenge may be the motive for the killings in South Carolina of more than 300,000 commercial chickens worth about $1.7 million over the past two weeks, authorities said on Monday. Birds have been found dead of unnatural causes in 16 chicken houses at…

    Reuters
  • Passengers use emergency slides after landing in Denver

    DENVER (AP) — Passengers on an American Airlines flight from Charlotte, North Carolina, were forced to slide off the plane on emergency chutes soon after landing in Denver on Wednesday.

    Associated Press59 mins ago
  • Student Shot With BB Gun On Campus Shocked by University`s Reaction

    A student at Norfolk State University says she was shot with a BB gun and hit with a bottle of urine outside of a all-male dorm room on campus, but says the school offered little help to her or other students when she contacted them.

    Tribune
  • 'Thousands' of Russian troops in east Ukraine: US envoy

    The United States' senior envoy to Europe alleged Wednesday that Russia had deployed "thousands and thousands" of troops to neighboring Ukraine. Speaking to a congressional foreign affairs committee, Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland also told US lawmakers that Russia was flooding…

    AFP52 mins ago
  • Survivor testifies about 2 friends stabbed, bound, drowned

    PHILADELPHIA (AP) — A man who survived being beaten, bound, stabbed in the neck and kicked into the Schuylkill River took the stand in a hearing Tuesday and described the night his two friends lost their lives.

    Associated Press
  • Georgia police officer killed in shootout

    By David Beasley ATLANTA (Reuters) - A Georgia police officer was killed in a shootout with a suspect in suburban Atlanta early on Wednesday, authorities said. Officers went to investigate reports of shots in a suburban neighborhood and came under fire about 1:30 a.m. EST, according to the Fulton…

    Reuters
  • Senate fails to override Obama's veto of Keystone XL approval

    By Susan Cornwell WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Senate failed on Wednesday to override President Barack Obama's veto of legislation approving the Keystone XL oil pipeline, leaving the controversial project to await an administration decision on whether to permit or deny it. The Senate mustered…

    Reuters
  • Americans Love K-Cups, but Their Creator Regrets Inventing Them

    Now it seems that John Sylvan, the inventor of the tiny containers, is firmly on Team #KillTheKCup too. “No matter what they say about recycling, those things will never be recyclable,” said Sylvan.

    Takepart.com