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The U.S. monthly trade deficit surged in January to its highest level ($56.6o billion) since October, 2008 ($60.19 billion) – when the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy sparked a worldwide financial and economic panic.

New all-time records were set by monthly services exports ($66.66 billion) and imports ($46.78 billion), and December results for both were revised significantly upward (0.77 percent for the former, and 2.07 percent for the latter). The trade deficit in petroleum products jumped by 116.64 percent on month in January – the biggest sequential percentage increase ever – to $7.08 billion. That total was a post-March ($8.28 billion) high.

America’s January merchandise trade deficit in goods ($76.49 billion) was a post-July, 2008 ($77.63 billion) high, while the trade gaps in manufacturing and in goods with China bounced back on month to their second highest all-time totals ($35.95 billion and $86.62 billion, respectively). Moreover, U.S. merchandise exports to China sank by their greatest percentage on month (28.05 percent) since January, 1999 (43.37 percent). Total exports fell on month (by 1.30 percent) for the first time since October, and combined goods and services imports dipped fractionally (to $257.51 billion) from the upwardly revised record set in December.

Here are selected highlights of the latest monthly (January) trade balance figures released this morning by the Census Bureau:

>The combined U.S. goods and services trade deficit rose on month in January to its biggest total ($53.91 billion) since October, 2008 ($60.19 billion) – when the world economy teetered on the brink of meltdown due to the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy.

>The figure represented a 4.99 percent increase from a December figure of $53.91 billion that was revised up by an unusually large 1.49 percent.

>January saw all-time records for monthly services exports and imports. The former improved sequentially from by 0.41 percent, from $66.39 billion to $66.66 billion, while the latter grew by 0.38 percent, from $46.60 billion to $46.78 billion.

>At the same time, both services trade figures also saw major revisions in the December – both upward. The exports number was raised by 0.77 percent, and imports upgraded by an enormous 2.07 percent.

>January’s trade deficit increase was led in relative terms by the nation’s oil trade deficit – which more than doubled sequentially, from $3.27 billion to $7.08 billion. That was the highest such total since last March’s $8.28 billion.

>Partly as a result, the U.S. merchandise trade deficit widened sequentially in January by 3.79 percent, to $76.49 billion – its highest such level since July, 2008’s $77.63 billion.

>But manufacturing contributed significantly to the rise in the overall trade deficit and the merchandise shortfall as well. Its chronic trade shortfall ballooned by 14.54 percent on month to hit $86.62 billion – just shy of October’s record of $88.98 billion.

>Manufacturing exports slid by 8.99 percent sequentially in January, from $94.89 billion to $86.36 billion, while imports were off by only 0.08 percent, from $173.13 billion to $172.99 billion.

>In turn, helping to fuel this deterioration in the manufacturing trade balance was the 16.70 percent worsening of the U.S. merchandise deficit with China. The January figure of $35.93 billion was the second highest of all time, too – trailing only September, 2015’s $36.29 billion. The increase, moreover, was the biggest since May, 2016’s 19.43 percent. 

>Mainly responsible for the China trade deficit’s increase was a 28.05 percent nosedive in U.S. goods exports to the strongly growing People’s Republic. Although the decrease followed a record December export total of $13.67 billion, it was still the biggest such percentage drop since January, 1999 (43.37 percent). 

>The $9.84 billion in U.S. goods sales to China in January, moreover, was the lowest such figure since June’s $9.71 billion. 

>U.S. merchandise imports from China rose – by 2.95 percent, to $45.79 billion.

>Total goods exports were down in January by 1.30 percent (to $200.91 billion) from December’s upwardly revised $203.61 billion. The drop was the first since October.

>Total imports in January dipped only fractionally – to $257.510 billion – from December’s upwardly revised record of $257.514 billion.

>The high tech goods trade deficit rose by 14.25 percent on month in January, from $10.06 billion to $11.49 billion.

>High tech exports plunged on month by 18.11 percent to $27.46 billion – a post February, 2017 ($25.39 billion) low, and the biggest falloff since January, 2017’s 19.01 percent.

>High tech goods imports sank, too – by 10.64 percent, to $38.95 billion. That was the biggest drop since last February’s 13.31 percent.

>As the Trump administration’s efforts to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) face an uncertain future, America’s merchandise trade deficit with Canada shot up by 65.04 percent on month in January, to $3.64 billion. That’s its highest level since December, 2014 ($4.07 billion).

>Yet the U.S. goods trade shortfall with Mexico decreased by 23.03 percent – to $4.14 billion. That’s the lowest such total since last January ($3.95 billion).

>Trade tensions with the European Union (EU) seem to growing as well, due mainly to the Trump administration’s announcement of steel and aluminum tariffs. In January, however, the merchandise trade gap with the EU fell by 13.88 percent, to $13.62 billion.

>President Trump is also hoping to revamp the bilateral U.S.-South Korea trade agreement (KORUS). In January, America’s goods trade deficit with South Korea hit $1.97 billion – a 57.57 percent monthly rise. At the same time, December’s $1.25 billion goods trade gap was the smallest since December, 2016’s $1.17 billion.