The U.S. trade deficit hit $13.68 billion in November, the third-largest imbalance on record, as a big rise in oil imports swamped a modest gain in exports, the government reported today.
The Commerce Department said the trade deficit soared 19.5% above the October figure of $11.45 billion.
For the year, the difference between what America imports and what it sells abroad totals $131.8 billion, already higher than the total for all of 1984, which was a record $123.3 billion.
Economists have been predicting that the deficit for all of 1985 will be between $140 billion and $150 billion.
The big surge in November was likely to come as a disappointment to analysts who had hoped that a 26.3% decline in the deficit in October marked the beginning of an improvement in America’s trading woes.
Record Set in September
The big October drop followed a record $15.55-billion deficit reached in September.
The country’s disastrous trading performance has been blamed on the high value of the dollar, which makes U.S. goods more expensive and harder to sell abroad while making imports cheaper and more attractive to Americans.
The November imbalance came from an import total of $31.66 billion, a 9.8% rise from the October level, and an export total of $17.98 billion, an increase of 3.5% from October.
The rise in imports included a big jump in oil imports and an even larger increase in shipments of foreign cars.
Japanese Cars Up 61.3%
Auto imports shot up 39.3% to total $3.88 billion last month. The big gain included a 61.3% jump in imports of Japanese cars, which totaled $1.83 billion last month.
Oil imports rose 3.1% to $4.76 billion in November. The November figures include an average level of imports of 5.8 million barrels per day, compared to 5.5 million barrels in October.
The November export total included a 22.7% rise in sales of U.S. agricultural products, which totaled $1.85 billion last month.
U.S. exports of manufactured goods also rose but by a smaller 2.8% to $22.79 billion.
In a separate report, the government said today that sales of new homes rose 7.7% in November, the first gain since July and the biggest advance in more than a year.