Ahead of the Bell: Trade Deficit

AP News
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Posted: Dec 16, 2009 6:30 AM

The deficit in the broadest measure of foreign trade is expected to have widened slightly in the third quarter. But economists are hoping that U.S. exports will continue growing in coming months, providing support to American manufacturers and helping to lift the country out of recession.

Economists surveyed by Thomson Reuters are forecasting that the deficit in the current account grew to $108 billion in the July-September quarter. That would be an increase of 9.3 percent from the second quarter deficit of $98.8 billion.

The Commerce Department is scheduled to release the new figure at 8:30 a.m. EST.

The current account is the broadest measure of trade because it includes not only trade in goods and services, which are tracked by the government on a monthly basis, but also investment flows between countries.

The current account is closely watched by economists because it is a measure of how much the country must borrow from foreigners to finance its balance of payments imbalance.

U.S. companies have been seeing export sales rise in recent months. Economists believe that continued strength in exports will be a key source of support for the economy as it struggles to emerge from the worst recession since the 1930s.

The rise in exports has been helped by a decline of about 10 percent in the value of the dollar against a group of major currencies since the U.S. currency hit a high for this year in March. A weaker dollar makes American products cheaper and thus more competitive on overseas markets.

The Federal Reserve reported Tuesday that the nation's industrial output rose 0.8 percent in November, a larger gain than economists had expected. Analysts said that part of the strength reflected the rebound many U.S. companies are enjoying in export sales.