U.S. trade deficit with China shrank to its lowest point in almost three years as imports slowed and
exports increased. President Trump may use these data points as fodder that his tariff war is working, thereby bolstering his position in negotiations.
Deeper Dive: Sharp Decline In Overall Trade
The merchandise gap narrowed to $28.3 billion in March, according to the Commerce Department. Overall U.S. deficit in goods and services widened to $50 billion. Overall exports increased 1% to $212 billion, boosted by a 39% jump in soybean shipments. Imports climbed 1.1% to $262 billion on gains in oil, food, vehicles and pharmaceuticals. The overall merchandise-trade deficit widened 0.7% to $72.4 billion.
China Sends Chief Negotiator Ahead of Friday Tariff Increase
China’s top negotiator is scheduled to arrive in Washington today ahead of the tariff increase on Friday. The narrower trade gap with China obscures a sharp drop in overall trade with the US. Imports from China dropped 13.6% in Q1 compared to a year ago while exports were down 17.6%. For March, exports were the highest since mid-2018 while imports were the lowest since 2016.
Net Exports a Plus for US
Net exports have helped boost U.S. growth, adding a full point to gross domestic product in the first quarter after previously dragging on the expansion. At the same time, exporters have been confronting a dimmer outlook for global growth, while an inventory overhang may weigh on imports.
PPI, Jobless Claims, Merchandise Deficits, Misc.
- Domestic producer prices increased 0.2% in April, within expected range.
- Yield spread between 10-year TIPS and regular 10-year Treasuries was 1.856%, down 0.8 basis points from Wednesday.
- Jobless claims were within recent ranges at 228K.
- Unadjusted merchandise trade deficit with Mexico rose to a record $9.5 billion, while the gap with Europe increased more than 50% to $14.2 billion.
- The real petroleum gap widened to $8.1 billion as exports and imports both increased.
- Fed Chair Powell and Chicago Fed President Evans speak at a conference today, their commentary is NOT expected to reflect outlook or monetary policy.