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As made abundantly clear by today’s official U.S. report, which brings the story up to December, 2021 and therefore the full year – last year was one for the books when it came to U.S. trade flows – and specifically the record books. The same goes for the month of December. I can’t remember ever seeing data revealing so many monthly and annual bests and worsts in terms of exports, imports, and trade balances.

There’s no question that the responsbility rests with the continuing and wildly fluctuating impact on the entire U.S. and world economies of the CCP Virus and the related lockdowns and other curbs on business and consumer activity. But the records are so numerous that they’re definitely worth listing.

Let’s start cover the December monthly figures today, and save the annual data for tomorrow – just to break things up into digestable pieces. The month’s combined goods and services trade deficit came in at $80.73 billion, a modest increase of only 1.76 percent from November’s $79.33 billion that may have reflected a U.S. economic growth slowdown toward the end of the fourth quarter.  And that November number was revised down by a noteworthy 11.05 percent. The December total wasn’t an all-time monthly high, but it did trail only the $80.81 billion level of September.

A record was set by the monthly goods deficit, and at $101.43 billion, it was the second straight, and an increase of 3.21 percent over November’s $98.27 billion.

For a change, the total December trade gap was held down by the $20.70 billion services surplus – the highest since May’s $21.33 billion.

As known by RealityChek regulars, the portion of U.S. trade flows that best reflects the effectiveness of past and present U.S. trade policy decisions is the non-oil goods deficit – which strips out services trade because liberalization efforts here are still in their infancy, and trade in energy-related petroleum products because they’re rarely the objects of trade diplomacy.

And this “Made in Washington” trade shortfall hit its second straight record in December, with the $100.54 billion level 4.48 percent higher than November’s $96.23 billion.

Turning to some trade flows followed by RealityChek with special interest, the manufacturing trade deficit in December retreated by 1.14 percent from the all-time monthly high of $124.06 billion set in November. But the latest $122.65 billion level now stands as Number Two.

The trade gap in Advanced Technology Products (ATP) dropped on month in December, too – by a steep 8.98 percent, from $21.76 billion to $19.80 billion. The record is November, 2020’s $21.90 billion, leaving the new December total as the third highest on record.

The huge and longstanding goods deficit with China hit its second highest level of the CCP Virus era in December – $36.25 billion. (September, 2021’s $36.50 billion was the highest.) The total was a robust 11.86 percent higher than November’s $36.22 billion, but well short of the October, 2018’s record of $42.89 billion, set when U.S. importers were tying to “front run” new anticipated Trump administration tariffs.

December’s $228.14 billion worth of combined goods and services exports were a third straight record, and topped November’s $224.73 billion figure by 1.52 percent.

Goods exports of $158.27 billion in December were 1.25 percent higher than November’s $156.25 billion level, but were 0.47 percent shy of the record $159.01 billion set in October.

The $69.88 billion in services exports in December were far from an all-time high in a sector that’s been especially hard it during the pandemic period, but they were 2.03 percent better than November’s $68.48 billion. They also represented the best performance since December, 2019’s $73.18 billion and the third straight sequential high of the CCP Virus era.

As for non-oil goods, their December exports of $138.48 billion topped November’s $135.60 by 2.09 percent, but October’s $139.15 billion still stands as the monthly record.

In the manufacturing sector, exports improved on month in December by 1.68 percent, from $98.49 billion to $100.14 billion. They have a ways to go, however, before matching the all-time high of $105.61 billion, set in March, 2018.

Interestingly, though, that December manufacturing exports advance came despite a 16.70 monthly nosedive in U.S. goods exports to China – still often touted as a promising market for American industrial products. The swoon from $16.07 billion to $13.38 billion was the worst since the 26.83 percent plunge in February, and the monthly figure the lowest since September’s $10.91 billion.

ATP exports performed better in December, jumping 12.03 percent from November’s $30.76 billion to a record $34.46 billion. The new level is fractionally better than the former all-time high of $34.26 billion set in October.

On the import side, combined U.S. purchases of foreign goods and services of $308.87 billion in December was a fifth straight monthly record and a 1.58 percent increase from November’s $304.07 billion.

Also a fifth straight all-time high were December goods imports of $259.70 billion. And they were 2.03 percent higher than November’s $254.52 billion.

December’s services imports of $49.18 billion were actually 0.74 percent below November’s $49.54 billion, but were still the second best performance of the pandemic period.

The December non-oil goods imports total of $238.98 billion, however, were a fourth straight monthly record, and beat the November figure of $231.82 billion by 3.09 percent.

December imports of $222.79 billion in the manufacturing sector represented a third straight record, but only a 0.11 percent increase from November’s $222.55billion.

And four straight monthly records are now on the books for ATP imports, which climbed by 3.31 percent, from $52.52 billion in November to $54.26 billion in December.

Finally, as far as December is concerned, at $49.53 billion, U.S. goods imports from China set a fourth straight CCP Virus-era record, and stood 2.38 percent higher than November’s $48.39 billion. But that December total has been topped three times before, including the record $52.08 billion set during the tariff front-running days of October, 2018.

Tomorrow we’ll examine those annual 2021 trade results – which you’ll see are just as records-rich!