The U.S. trade deficit widened more than expected in February as a rebound in exports was offset by an increase in imports, the latest indication that economic growth remained weak in the first quarter.
The Commerce Department said on Tuesday the trade gapincreased 2.6 percent to $47.1 billion.
Economists polled by Reuters had forecast the trade deficit rising to $46.2 billion in February. When adjusted for inflation, the deficit rose to $63.3 billion, the largest since March last year, from $61.8 billion in January.
The report joined data on consumer and business spending in suggesting that economic growth moderated further in the first quarter after slowing to a 1.4 percent annualized rate in the final three months of 2015. Growth estimates for the first quarter are currently below a 1 percent pace.
In February, exports of goods rose 1.6 percent to $118.6 billion, increasing for the first time since September. Overall exports of goods and services advanced 1.0 percent to $178.1 billion.
Exports have been undercut by a buoyant dollar, which has made U.S.-manufactured goods expensive relative to those of its main trading partners. Slowing growth in Europe and China has also eroded demand for U.S. goods.
But with the dollar rally fading, February’s nascent increase in exports is likely to be sustained. A survey last week showed a gauge of new export orders received by factories rose in March to its highest level since December 2014.