2017 Economic Calendar
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International Trade  
Released On 4/4/2017 8:30:00 AM For Feb, 2017
PriorPrior RevisedConsensusConsensus RangeActual
Trade Balance Level$-48.5 B$-48.2 B$-44.5 B$-46.5 B to $-43.6 B$-43.6 B

Highlights
In favorable news for first-quarter GDP, the nation's trade gap hit Econoday's low estimate in February at $43.6 billion and reflects a 1.8 percent drop in imports but only a 0.2 percent gain for exports. The goods deficit came in at $65.0 billion vs $64.8 billion in last week's advance report for February with the services surplus at $21.4 billion which is unchanged from January (there's no advance report for services).

It has been strong demand for foreign consumer goods and foreign autos that has been a central factor behind the nation's trade deficits, and the news in February, at least in terms of the deficit, is positive. Imports of consumer goods fell to $49.0 billion which is down a very sizable $3.1 billion from January. Imports of autos fell to $29.1 billion for a $2.7 billion decline. Offsets include a $1.3 billion rise in crude oil imports to $13.0 billion reflecting a sharp monthly increase of $1.31 per barrel to $45.25 along with a slight rise in volumes per day.

The export side, despite the fractional gain, is less constructive. Exports of capital goods extended their flat-to-lower trend, down $0.6 billion in the month to $42.9 billion and due entirely to civilian aircraft. Exports of foods fell $0.7 billion with nonmonetary gold down $0.4 billion. A positive is a $0.7 billion upturn in exports of consumer goods to $17.1 billion. Less positive, however, is a flat month for services where exports were unchanged at $64.4 billion with the surplus relative to $43.0 billion in service imports once again flat at $21.4 billion. Services have been the strength of the U.S. trade picture.

Country data show the trade deficit with China at $23 billion in the month followed by the EU at $9.4 billion, Mexico at $5.8 billion, Japan at $4.7 billion and Canada at $2.1 billion. Note that country data are unadjusted which makes monthly comparisons difficult especially given February's 28 days vs January's 31 days.

For GDP these data are very positive and help offset not only January's large trade deficit but also what's evolving as a weak quarter for domestic consumer spending. For cross-border trade, this report is not upbeat, showing less demand for goods and services both here and abroad.

Recent History Of This Indicator
International trade is the Achilles' heel for U.S. GDP, subtracting nearly 2 points from the fourth-quarter which nevertheless managed a 2.1 percent annualized rate. Advance data on February goods shows a smaller but still very large gap at $64.8 billion. After adding in the nation's surplus on services exports, forecasters see the international trade gap for February falling to $44.5 billion from January's $48.5 billion. Any disappointment from the consensus would pull down first-quarter GDP estimates.

Definition
International trade is composed of merchandise (tangible goods) and services. It is available nationally by export, import and trade balance. Merchandise trade is available by export, import and trade balance for six principal end-use commodity categories and for more than one hundred principal Standard International Trade Classification (SITC) system commodity groupings. Data are also available for 36 countries and geographic regions. Detailed information is reported on oil and motor vehicle imports. Services trade is available by export, import and trade balance for seven principal end-use categories.  Why Investors Care
 
[Chart]
Exports grow when foreign economies are strong. The weaker the foreign exchange value of the dollar, the less expensive goods and services are to foreigners, and this also helps spurt export activity. Imports grow when U.S. economic growth is robust. Imports are also spurred by a strong foreign exchange value of the dollar.
Data Source: Haver Analytics
 
[Chart]
The international trade balance has posted a deficit almost continuously since the 1980s. Any trade deficit is a drag on U.S. GDP growth, but a smaller deficit adds to growth, while a larger deficit decreases GDP growth.
Data Source: Haver Analytics
 
 

2017 Release Schedule
Released On: 1/62/73/74/45/46/27/68/49/610/511/312/5
Release For: NovDecJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOct
 


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