U.S. Trade Gap Widened in November

The U.S. trade deficit widened again in November, creating a likely drag on overall economic growth as the year ended.

The trade gap for goods and services increased 6.8% from a month earlier to a seasonally adjusted $45.24 billion in November, the Commerce Department said Friday. That took the monthly deficit to its highest level since February.

Economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal had expected a November trade deficit of $45.6 billion.

Exports fell 0.2% from the prior month while imports climbed 1.1%.

U.S. exports rose to the highest level in more than a year in September, buoyed by surging sales of soybeans and other goods. That proved unsustainable. Meanwhile, the dollar has strengthened, making U.S. goods and services more expensive overseas and foreign products cheaper here.

In November, imports of all goods rose to the highest level since August 2015. Exports of capital goods–engines, computers, bulldozers and the like–fell to the lowest level since September 2011.

In a reflection of rising oil prices and volumes, both petroleum imports and exports were the highest since the summer of 2015.

In the third quarter of the year, trade contributed 0.85 percentage point to gross domestic product’s 3.5% advance, the most since the end of 2013, according to Commerce Department data. That may be reversed in the final months of the year as farm sales return to more normal levels and the stronger dollar hinders American exporters.

Forecasting firm Macroeconomic Advisers on Wednesday said it expects GDP to expand at a 2.2% pace to end the year, a marked slowdown from the third quarter.

President-elect Donald Trump made trade and trade agreements central issues during his campaign. Mr. Trump, who will take office later this month, has repeatedly criticized free-trade deals and U.S. companies that relocate operations overseas with the goal of shipping goods back to the U.S.

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