The U.S. trade deficit unexpectedly widened in August, as higher imports of capital goods and record purchases of services from abroad overshadowed a gain in exports.
The gap grew by 3 percent from the prior month to $40.7 billion, Commerce Department figures showed Wednesday in Washington. The median forecast in a Bloomberg survey of economists called for a deficit of $39.2 billion. Imports posted a 1.2 percent rise, while exports increased 0.8 percent.
Services imports jumped by $1.5 billion to $43 billion, with most of the rise coming from charges for use of intellectual property that may reflect a temporary boost from rights fees to broadcast the Olympic Games. Improvement in global markets and the dissipating effect of the strong dollar are likely to aid exports and help the expansion in the world’s largest economy.
“We anticipate a further pickup in exports,” Jennifer Lee, a senior economist at BMO Capital Markets in Toronto, said before the report. “On balance, that will be supporting U.S. growth in the third quarter.”
Bloomberg survey estimates for the trade deficit ranged from $37 billion to $44 billion. The $39.5 billion shortfall for July was unrevised by the Commerce Department.
Exports increased to $187.9 billion on sales of consumer goods including pharmaceuticals as well as industrial supplies, the report showed.
Imports gained to $228.6 billion, up from $225.9 billion in the prior month. In addition to services, purchases increased for foods and capital goods such as aircraft and telecommunications equipment made abroad.