US trade deficit grows again as retailers import more consumer goods for the holiday shopping season


Numbers: The US international merchandise trade deficit widened in August and remained near a record high as retailers imported more consumer goods ahead of the holiday shopping season.

The goods trade gap widened 0.9% to $ 87.6 billion in August, the government said Tuesday.

Imports of goods rose 0.8% to $ 236.6 billion, a hair below the all-time high set in June.

US exports, meanwhile, rose 0.7% to $ 149 billion and set a new record.

Big picture: Already high deficits set new records during the pandemic as the US economy recovered faster than other countries. Americans can afford to buy more imports and they have grown faster than exports.

Record deficits are expected to decline once the global pandemic is over, but they will certainly remain quite high. The United States has become dependent on imported goods in recent decades.

Key details: Imports of consumer goods such as cell phones, computers and toys jumped 4.6% in August.

Retailers are trying to stock up earlier than usual to ensure they have enough products on their shelves before the holiday shopping season begins in late November. There have been widespread shortages of many products and major delays at the American ports where these goods are unloaded.

Imports of cars and trucks, on the other hand, fell again amid a continuing shortage of computer chips that limited auto production and pushed prices to record levels.

The United States exported more industrial supplies, but shipments of American-made automobiles fell sharply as expected. General Motors GM,
+ 0.19%
and Ford F,
+ 1.55%
had to temporarily shut down some assembly lines due to the semiconductor crisis.

The full August trade balance report, which includes services such as tourism, will be released next week.

The government also said Tuesday that wholesalers ‘inventories rose 1.2% in August, while retailers’ inventories rose 0.1%, based on an “advanced” review of early data.

These three ratios help determine the rate of growth of the US economy as measured by gross domestic product.

Market reaction: The Dow Jones Industrial Average DJIA,
-1.40%
and S & P500 SPX,
-1.82%
were scheduled to open lower in Tuesday’s action. The trade report generally has little impact on investors.


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