US trade deficit narrows in October as imports, exports fall

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Photo taken on Nov. 1, 2017 shows workers arranging packed beef at the Greater Omaha Packing company in Omaha, the United States. [Photo/Xinhua]

The overall U.S. trade deficit narrowed in October as imports fell faster than exports, the Commerce Department reported on Thursday.

The trade deficit in goods and services fell by 7.6 percent to 47.2 billion U.S. dollars in October from a revised 51.1 billion dollars in September, the department said.

Exports for October were 207.1 billion dollars, down 0.4 billion dollars from September, while imports fell to 254.3 billion dollars, 4.3 billion dollars less than the prior month.

The decline in overall imports was driven by fewer imports of consumers products including cell phones, clothing, toys, games and sporting goods, according to the department.

That could signal weakening consumer demand and slower economic growth in the fourth quarter as trade tensions between the United States and major trading partners drag on.

Approximately 80 percent of U.S. consumers surveyed recently indicated that they were concerned by the potential impact of the tariffs on prices, Matthew Shay, president and CEO of the National Retail Federation (NRF), said Tuesday.

Robert Kaplan, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, also expected U.S. economic growth to "be weak" in the fourth quarter as businesses cut inventories due to trade uncertainty.

"One of the reasons the fourth quarter is going to be weak, we believe, is probably a significant inventory adjustment, which might be as much as half a percent or more of GDP growth," Kaplan said in an interview with CNBC last week.

"Just means people have been destocking. And probably the reason they were destocking is there was a lot of pessimism over the last number of months about, you know, future growth prospects," he said.

The U.S. economy is expected to expand at an annual rate of 1.3 percent in the fourth quarter, lower than the 2.1-percent growth rate in the third quarter, according to the latest forecast released by the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta on Monday.

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