All-time-record monthly exports shrank the U.S. trade deficit to its lowest level in more than 3 1/2 years, the Commerce Department said Tuesday.
Exports rose 2.2 percent in June from May to a seasonally adjusted $191.2 billion, the highest on record when adjusted for inflation, the department said.
The biggest exports were in U.S.-made capital goods, consumer goods and industrial supplies and materials including telecommunications equipment, civilian aircraft engines and heavy machinery.
This made up for export drops in other industries, particularly in automotive vehicles, parts, and engines.
Imports fell 2.5 percent to $225.4 billion, mostly from a drop in imported foods, feeds, beverages and automobiles. Oil imports declined to the lowest level in more than two years.
Services were virtually unchanged at $38 billion.
The result was the deficit shrank 22.4 percent in June to $34.2 billion, the department said.
Many economists expected a deficit of about $44 billion.
During the first six months, exports totaled $1.12 trillion and imports decreased $13.1 billion, narrowing the trade deficit $36.1 billion from January to June, the department said.
"Export data from the first half of 2013 show that the United States is on track to exceed last year's totals, with June exports hitting an all-time record," Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker said.
"Today, we sell more products made in America to the rest of the world than ever before."
The surprisingly strong exports could indicate second-quarter growth in the U.S. gross domestic product was greater than the Commerce Department reported last week, The Wall Street Journal said.
The department said Wednesday the economy grew at a 1.7 percent annual rate in the April-June quarter. It tied the rate, in part, to projected weak trade in June. But the actual trade figures were stronger than projected.
The government is to update second-quarter growth Aug. 29. The update will include June's actual trade figures.
Shadow Government Statistics in San Francisco said Tuesday its analysis indicated much of the reported deficit narrowing was "due to a significant disruption in trade flows and to unstable seasonal-factor adjustments, which means there should be catch-up deficit reporting in the months ahead."
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