Those who claim that Trump has already won or is sure to win the trade war need to ponder actual trade results.
Exports rose 1.0% in March with imports up a reported 0.9%. That progress was taken away and then some in April.
Sharp declines in exports are unwelcome headlines in April’s advance data on goods trade. The monthly deficit remains very deep, at $72.1 billion with exports falling 4.2 percent year-on-year and with imports also down, 2.7 percent lower. The deficit compares unfavorably with a $71.3 billion monthly average in the first quarter that marks a weak opening for net exports in the second quarter.
Capital goods are the US’s largest exports and these fell 6.5 percent in the month to $44.3 billion. Compared with April last year, capital goods exports are down 3.7 percent. Auto exports are also down, 7.2 percent lower to $12.9 billion and 6.7 percent below last year. The only export component showing a gain is food & feeds which rose 0.5 percent to $11.2 billion but which is nevertheless 6.2 percent below April last year.
The decline on the import side is also led by a 3.5 percent decline for capital goods ($55.4 billion) but also includes 3.1 percent and 2.3 percent monthly declines in autos ($30.9 billion) and consumer goods ($54.2 billion) as well as a 1.1 percent drop in foods ($12.8 billion).
Global trade figures have been contracting and the latest US numbers are part of that picture. Today’s report gets second-quarter GDP, already held down by contractions for April retail sales and industrial production, off to a slow start.
Note that country balances aren’t posted with the advance report but will follow with the subsequent international trade report that will also include data on services.
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