By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Published: July 3, 2013
WASHINGTON — The United States trade deficit widened in May to its highest level in six months as a sluggish global economy depressed demand for American exports. Fewer exports mean growth in the April-June quarter could be weaker than previously forecast. The trade deficit rose to $45 billion in May, up 12.1 percent from $40.1 billion in April, the Commerce Department said on Wednesday. It was the largest trade gap since November.
Exports slipped 0.3 percent to $187.1 billion. Sales of American farm products dropped to their lowest point in more than two years. American exports have been hurt by recessions in many European countries. Imports rose 1.9 percent to $232.1 billion. Imports of autos and other nonpetroleum products rose widely. The trade deficit is running at an annual rate of $501.2 billion, 6.3 percent lower than last year’s deficit.
Paul Dales, senior United States economist at Capital Economics, said the larger trade deficit for May indicated that economic growth in the second quarter could be even weaker than the sluggish 1.5 percent annual rate that he had forecast. Economists at Barclays said the higher deficit led them to downgrade their growth forecast for the second quarter to 1 percent, from 1.6 percent.
The American economy expanded at an annual rate of only 1.8 percent in the first three months of the year. For May, exports to the European Union (link is external) were up 6.4 percent. But over the last five months, exports to this region have declined 6.3 percent from the same period in 2012. Europe has been hurt by a prolonged debt crisis (link is external), which has led to recessions across the Continent. The United States trade deficit with China (link is external) jumped 15.6 percent to $27.9 billion in May. That is close to the monthly high set in November. So far this year, the trade deficit with China, the largest with any country, is running 3 percent higher than last year.