ADVERTISEMENT

WASHINGTON – The U.S. trade deficit widened in December after hitting a four-year low in November. But for all of 2013, the gap reached its lowest point since 2009 as exports rose to a record.

The trade deficit rose to $38.7 billion in December, a 12 percent increase over November, the Commerce Department said Thursday. Exports slipped 1.8 percent to $191.3 billion. Imports rose 0.3 percent to $230 billion.

For all of 2013, the deficit dropped 11.8 percent to $471.5 billion. That was the lowest level since the Great Recession caused the deficit to shrink in 2009.

U.S. exports rose 2.8 percent as an improving global economy benefited American manufacturers. An energy production boom also lifted U.S. petroleum exports to a record. Imports dipped 0.1 percent. A smaller trade deficit can boost economic growth. U.S. manufacturers gain from rising export sales, while consumers are buying fewer foreign-made products.

A domestic energy boom has boosted exports and reduced America’s dependence on foreign oil. U.S. petroleum exports were up 10.9 percent in 2013 to an all-time high of $137 billion. Imports were down 11 percent to $369.3 billion. The drop in imports was helped by falling global oil prices.

By country, the United States ran another record trade deficit with China: $318.4 billion for the year, an increase of 1 percent from 2012.