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US trade deficit largest since 2008 as imports surge

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The U.S.A trade deficit increased to its highest level in nearly 6-1/2 years in March, as imports rebounded strongly after being held down by a labour dispute at key West Coast ports, suggesting the economy contracted in the first quarter.

The Commerce Department said that the deficit on the trade balance jumped 43.1 percent to $51.4 billion, the largest since October 2008. The percent rise also was the biggest since December 1996.
February’s shortfall was revised to $35.9 billion from a previously reported $35.4 billion. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast the trade deficit rising to $41.2 billion.

The now-settled labour dispute at the West Coast ports significantly slowed imports and exports at the start of the year. The dollar, which has gained about 12 percent against the currencies of the United States’ main trading partners since last June, has also weighed on trade.

In March, imports jumped 7.7 percent, the largest increase on record, to $239.2 billion. Imports are a drag on growth.