WASHINGTON – The U.S. trade deficit widened slightly in January as a rise in imports of oil and other foreign goods offset a solid increase in exports.
The trade deficit increased to $39.1 billion, up 0.3 percent from December’s revised $39 billion deficit, the Commerce Department reported Friday.
Exports climbed 0.6 percent to $192.8 billion, led by increased sales of U.S.-made machinery, aircraft and medical equipment.
Imports also rose 0.6 percent to $231.6 billion, reflecting a 9 percent jump in imports of petroleum. Imports of food and machinery also rose.
The trade deficit is the difference between imports and exports.
A higher trade deficit acts as a drag on economic growth because it means U.S. companies are making less overseas than their foreign competitors are earning in U.S. sales.
Sal Guatieri, senior economist at BMO Capital Markets, said the January trade report suggests the trade deficit will remain on a gradual downward trend this year, reflecting a shrinking U.S. energy deficit.
In 2013, the trade deficit dropped 11.2 percent to $474.9 billion, providing a small boost to overall growth.