The U.S. trade deficit fell to an 11-month low in November as declining crude oil prices curbed the import bill, eclipsing a drop in exports that could be related to a labor dispute at one of the nation’s key ports.
Other data on Wednesday showed private employers stepped up hiring last month, a sign the U.S. economy was still sailing along despite slowing growth abroad.
The Commerce Department said the trade gap narrowed 7.7 percent to $39 billion, the smallest since December 2013.
When adjusted for inflation, the deficit fell to $47.8 billion from $50.1 billion in October, probably not enough to change views trade would be a drag on fourth-quarter gross domestic product.
Trade contributed 0.8 percentage point to the third quarter’s robust 5.0 percent annualized growth pace, which was the fastest in 11 years.
Growth estimates for the fourth quarter are currently between a 2.5 percent and 3.0 percent rate. In addition to trade, inventory accumulation is also expected to restrict growth after businesses restocked warehouses faster than had been anticipated in the third quarter.
But with lower gasoline prices and a tightening labor market expected to provide a tailwind to consumer spending, the outlook is bullish for the economy in 2015.
The firming labor market was underscored by the ADP National Employment Report, which showed private payrolls increased 241,000 in December after rising 227,000 in November,
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