The U.S. trade deficit widened in December after exports rose at half the pace of imports.
Still, exports to Europe rose at a healthy clip, a sign that the critical U.S. trading partner is buying American goods despite its weakened economy.
The Commerce Department says the trade deficit increased to $48.8 billion, the largest imbalance since June. Exports rose 0.7 percent. Imports rose a faster 1.3 percent.
For the 2011, the deficit climbed to the highest level since 2008 as both exports and imports rose to all-time highs. The $558 billion deficit for all of 2011 reflected a 14.5 percent increase in exports to a record $2.1 trillion and a 13.8 percent gain in imports to $2.66 trillion, also a record.