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IN BRIEF : Widened Trade Gap Expected

From Times staff and wire service reports

Economists say the United States continues to suck in large amounts of foreign goods, which they expect drove imports to record levels in November and widened the nation’s monthly trade gap.

The Commerce Department is due Wednesday to release the volatile trade figures, whose gyrations often roil financial markets. Economists said they believe November exports rose from October but say the gain will be eclipsed by a 3% jump in imports.

Burgeoning consumer demand is seen as a major force behind the persistently high imports, and economists are forecasting a trade deficit of between $11 billion and $12 billion, after a $10.35-billion October shortfall.

“There’s a tendency to bring in a lot of (foreign) products because of strength in retail sales,” said Joseph Carson of Chemical Bank. “Firmness in fourth-quarter consumer spending was probably accompanied by a pick-up in imports.”

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Carson believes the trade gap widened to $12.1 billion in November as record high imports of $40.2 billion outpaced exports of $28.1 billion. In October, exports were $27.67 billion, while imports were $38.02 billion.


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