The trade gap widened to a seasonally adjusted $42.3 billion from a slightly revised $39.3 billion in January, the Commerce Department said Thursday. Economists polled by MarketWatch had forecast a deficit of $39.1 billion.
A bigger trade deficit is a drag on growth. Fewer sales of American goods and services overseas or higher purchases of foreign-made products help other countries more than the economy of the United States.
The U.S. trade deficit has gradually declined over the past few years, largely because of a rapid increase in domestic production of oil and natural gas. But there’s been little change in exports or imports since last summer, a reflection of the sluggish pace of growth in the U.S. and around the world.
U.S. exports fell 1.1% in February to $190.4 billion — the smallest amount since September — while imports edged up 0.4% to $232.7 billion. Imports of crude oil sank to a the three-and-a-half-year low.
The trade gap with China dropped to an unadjusted $20.9 billion from $27.8 billion in January, which was the small est deficit with China in nearly one year. The deficit with Mexico increased to $4 billion from $2.8 billion.