WASHINGTON -- The U.S. trade deficit jumped by 13% in July after hitting a more than three-year low the previous month, as the nation imported more goods, such as crude oil, and exports fell, the Commerce Department said Wednesday.
The increase in the trade deficit to $39.1 billion from June's upwardly revised level of $34.5 billion sent a mixed message about the hoped-for pickup in economic growth in the second half of the year.
A $3.5-billion rise in imports showed domestic demand increased in July for products such as consumer goods and automobiles, a positive sign.
But a $1.1-billion decline in exports from a record high in June demonstrated the continued impact on U.S. companies of Europe's economic troubles and a slowdown in some emerging markets, such as China.
Economists expected the nation would not be able to sustain the deficit level reached in June, which was the lowest since October 2009. They projected the July trade deficit to widen to about $38.6 billion in July.
Crude oil imports were up 6.1% in July, to $23.4 billion, after a decrease the previous month, the Commerce Department said. The rise was partly caused by higher prices related to increased tensions in the Middle East.
Imports of automotive vehicles, parts and engines rose 3.1% to $26.4 billion. Imports of consumer goods, such as clothes, cellphones and appliances, rose 1.6% to $44.5 billion.
Exports dropped 0.6% in July from the record high of $190.5 billion the previous month. Still, the $189.4 billion in exported goods in July was the second-highest level ever.
Exports of capital goods, such as computers and civilian aircraft, as well as automobiles and consumer goods all were down in July from the previous month.