The smaller-than-expected deficit came as exports rose 1.6 per cent to a record $48.6 billion in April boosted by exports of metal and non-metallic mineral products, consumer goods and energy products. March's trade deficit was downwardly revised from $49.0 billion to $47.2 billion.
If this trend continues, the trade deficit could actually make a positive contribution to the national Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in the second quarter after having a neutral impact in the January-March period.
Strong data ranging from manufacturing to consumer spending and the labor market have led the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta to estimate that economic growth in the second quarter will top a 4.0 percent annualized rate.
Import growth had been expected to slow to 18.7 percent in May, compared with 21.5 percent one month earlier. Canada said it would place tariffs on USA imports that include orange juice, whiskey, aluminum, and steel amongst others. Last week he extended the duties to steel and aluminum imports from Canada, Mexico and the European Union.
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The trade deficit in goods with China widened 8.1 percent to $28 billion in April.
Imports of goods and services slipped 0.2 percent to $257.4 billion in April. Consumer good exports also rose strongly by 5.4 percent sequentially, led by a sharp rise in pharmaceuticals.
On the other hand, imports of other commodities showed a decline; such as petroleum products by 26.5 percent, plastics by 2.1 percent, corn by 18.6 percent, and wood and articles thereof by 18.4 percent. In 2017, the import value of the USA goods that may be subject to the proposed tariffs was $19.4 billion.
Exports of industrial supplies and materials were the highest on record in April.
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The United States and China reached a deal Thursday that allows the Chinese telecommunications giant ZTE Corp.to stay in business in exchange for paying an additional $1 billion in fines and agreeing to let USA regulators monitor its operations. Other transport equipment imports also fell, declining 3.9 percent in April, after three straight monthly gains. Crude oil imports rose $1.0 billion in April, with prices averaging $54.50 per barrel.
Compared to the first quarter of 2017, productivity increased at a 1.3 percent rate.
In volume terms, imports were down 2.4 per cent.
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