October was a month of records, this morning’s U.S. trade figures revealed – and the most noteworthy weren’t the good kind.
All-time highs in two intertwined trade gaps in the news lately stand out: in U.S. goods trade with China, and in manufacturing trade.
October’s U.S. merchandise trade deficit with China hit its fourth straight monthly high – $43.10 billion. And the 7.11 percent sequential increase seemed largely to reflect continued evidence of importers striving to keep ahead of looming tariff increases promised by President Trump (and only partly and temporarily headed off by this past weekend’s announcement of a bilateral trade truce). American purchases of goods hit their second straight monthly record – $52.23 billion.
The story on the goods exports side reflected trade war-related developments as well, as U.S. merchandise sales to China slumped 6.73 percent sequentially, to $9.13 billion – their lowest level since August, 2016 ($9.37 billion).
On a year-to-date basis, American goods imports to China are up 8.26 percent, while exports have dipped by 0.96 percent. As a result, the merchandise trade deficit is running 11.38 percent of last year’s record pace, and with two data months left in this year, a new all-time high seems certain.
U.S. manufacturing trade, which is strongly influenced by U.S.-China trade, in October recorded its first monthly trade deficit topping $100 billion. The $102.11 billion gap represented a strong 18.95 percent increase from September’s $85.84 billion total, and exceeded the previous record of $92.51 billion (set in August) by 10.38 percent.
On a monthly basis, manufactures exports rose by 3.37 percent, from $97.18 billion to $100.44 billion. But imports surged by 10.67 percent, from $183.02 billion to $202.54 billion.
Year-to-date, the manufacturing trade shortfall is up 11.93 percent, from $761.44 billion to $852.31, and as a result, seems sure to hit the $1 trillion mark this year for the first time.
Manufacturing exports so far have increased by 6.65 percent between the first ten months of last year and the first ten months of this year. But the much greater amount of manufacturing imports has swelled by 9.06 percent.
The combined U.S. goods and services October trade deficit of $55.49 billion represented only a 1.71 percent increase from September’s upwardly revised figure of $54.56 billion. But the October total was the highest yet during the current economic recovery – eclipsing the $54.96 billion level of this past February.
The goods deficit, meanwhile, hit its all-time high in October ($78.11 billion), topping the previous record of $77.63 billion set in July, 2008 – shortly after the start of the last recession.
Overall October U.S. imports of $266.53 billion were a new record, too. Oddly, they came in below September’s previously reported $266.58 billion, but that number was revised down this morning.
Also at all-time records in October were U.S. goods imports ($219.59 billion) and services imports ($46.95 billion).
Year-to-date, the combined goods and services trade deficit is up 11.36 percent over last year’s January-October total. Total exports are up 7.68 percent but total imports have climbed by 8.38 percent.