U.S. Trade Deficit Shrinks

WASHINGTON (February 8, 2013)--The U.S. trade deficit narrowed in December because oil imports plummeted and total exports rose, the U.S. Commerce Department said Friday.

The smaller trade gap means the economy likely performed better in the final three months of last year than first estimated last week.

The Commerce Department said the trade deficit fell nearly 21 percent in December, to $38.6 billion, the smallest in nearly three years.

Exports rose 2.1 percent to $186.4 billion and exports of oil and other petroleum products rose to the highest level on record.

Imports shrank 2.7 percent to $224.9 billion while oil imports plunged to 223 billion barrels, the lowest since February 1997.

A narrower trade gap boosts growth because it means U.S. companies earned more from overseas sales while consumers and businesses spent less on foreign products.

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