Friday, November 19, 1999

Trade deficit a blot on stellar economy




BY MARTIN CRUTSINGER
The Associated Press

        WASHINGTON — The U.S. trade deficit widened to $24.4 billion in September even though American farmers saw their exports climb to the highest level in 19 months.

        America's deficits with China and Japan both rose with the shortfall, with China setting an all-time high for any country.

        The Commerce Department reported Thursday that the September trade deficit was 3.7 percent higher than a revised $23.5 billion August deficit.

        The latest deterioration in trade left the overall deficit running at an annual rate of $255.5 billion this year, 56 percent above last year's record of $164.3 billion.

        For September, exports, which had hit a record in August, edged back a slight 0.9 percent to $81.7 billion, reflecting sharp declines in exports of commercial airliners and autos.

        Imports hit a monthly record, rising 0.1 percent to $106.1 billion as the price of foreign crude oil shot up to the highest level in 31 months.

        In a second report, the Labor Department said the number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits declined by 3,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 287,000 persons, signaling the labor market remains extremely tight.

        On Tuesday, the Federal Reserve boosted interest rates for a third time this year, citing concerns the economy needs to slow further to make sure that the dwindling pool of available workers does not spur sharp wage increases that could lead to higher inflation.

        The trade deficit, which has been blamed on the worldwide economic crisis of the past two years, is the one blot on an otherwise superior economic performance that has pushed America's unemployment rate down to a 30-year low of 4.1 percent.

       



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