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This morning’s report from the Census Bureau on the newest (June) monthly U.S. trade figures is classic mixed bag – at best. The combined goods and services deficit came down for the first time since February, and a several new export growth records were set. Yet the results in China goods and manufacturing trade disappointed and the export records come with big asterisks – the strong growth followed much steeper CCP Virus-related nosedives.

The total U.S. trade gap narrowed by 7.48 percent on month in June, from May’s upwardly revised $54.80 billion to $50.70 billion. The results brought this trade deficit down 16.86 percent year-to-date – from $297.45 billion to $274.31 billion.

The monthly improvement was led by an all-time best 9.38 percent jump in exports – from $144.69 billion to $158.25 billion. (The data, which go back to 1992, show that the previous record was 8.52 percent, set in February, 1994.)

All the same, the June monthly goods and services export total was still the third lowest (after the April and May figures) since August, 2010’s $157.77 billion. In this vein, the June export advance needs to be seen in the context of the all-time worst 31.67 percent cratering of exports that occurred between February and May. Indeed, this three-month nosedive dwarfed that experienced during the gloomiest three months of the Great Recession that followed the global financial crisis (17.12 percent between October, 2008 and January, 2009). Moreover, total exports are down 15.75 percent on a January-June basis.

As for total imports, they rose 4.74 percent sequentially in June from an upwardly revised $199.49 billion to $208.95 billion. The increase, while not as historic as that for exports, was nonetheless the biggest since March. 2015’s 6.71 percent (also affected by natural disruption – that winter’s blizzards).

Yet virus-related distortions were clearly at work here, too, as the June import increase followed a 19.05 percent drop in total U.S. purchases from abroad between February and May. (Interestingly, the Great Recession’s greatest three-month import fall-off was a slightly larger 22.32 percent – and as with exports, took place between October, 2008 and January, 2009.)

For flows of goods specifically, the 5.29 percent June decline in the trade deficit (from an upwardly revised $76.18 billion in May to $72.15 billion) was also the first monthly decrease since February.

June’s 14.49 percent monthly advance in goods exports was another record – significantly exceeding the 9.01 percent registered in March, 1994. Even so, this impressive performance represented another incomplete recovery from a virus-related blow. For it came on the heels of a 35.01 percent collapse in these shipments between February and June – a fall-off much bigger than that seen between the Great Recessionary period between October, 2008 and January, 2009 (21.51 percent).

So it shouldn’t be surprising that June’s $102.87 billion goods export figure was the third lowest (again, after April and May) since April, 2010. Moreover, on a year-to-date basis, goods exports are 16.74 percent below 2019’s levels.

Goods imports were up 5.42 percent month-to-month in June. As with total trade, this change was considerably smaller than that for exports, and below the record of 7.78 percent set in March, 2015. (Those blizzards again.) But it, too, was CCP Virus-distorted, since it followed a 16.42 percent fall from Feb. through May.

The US-#China goods #trade deficit rose by 6.46% on-month in June, from $26.96 billion $28.40 billion. The only good news embedded in this result is that the monthly rate of growth slowed maredly from May’s 19.99 percent. The June number, moreover, was the highest since last October’s $31.26 billion.

Most discouraging – U.S. merchandise goods exports to the recovering economy of the People’s Republic were down 4.14%, month-to-month, from $9.64 billion to $9.24 billion. Especially important – overall U.S. goods sales to China on a January-June basis are running nearly 16 percent below their 2017 level, the baseline year for judging Beijing’s U.S. import commitments under the Phase One trade deal. The total import number doesn’t necessarily mean that China is way behind on this pledge, since it covered many specific sectors of the economy. But so many sectors are covered that the lag does raise important treaty violation questions.

U.S goods imports from China rose 2.85 percent sequentially in June, from $36.60 billion to $37.64 has also slowed significantly from the 17.79% monthly jump in May and the nearly 57 percent surge in April. That month’s performance reflected the restart of China’s factories following widespread CCP Virus-related shutdowns that depressed these sales to the US by 40.49 percent between January and March.

Manufacturing’s June trade figures were even worse. The deficit increase 5.30 percent over May’s $84.68 billion total, and the new $89.16 billion mark was the biggest since last October’s $92.70 billion.

Between May and June, manufacturing exports grew a healthy 15.46 percent, from $61.88 billion to $71.45 billion. But the much greater amount of imports expanded strongly as well, from $146.55 billion to $160.61 billion, or 9.59 percent.

Year-to-date, though, the manufacturing trade deficit is off by 4.53 percent, with exports running 17.17 percent below comparable 2019 levels and imports 11.24 percent less.