WASHINGTON -- The U.S. trade deficit widened in April after hitting a three-year low the previous month, as imports of consumer goods surged in a reflection of increasing confidence among American households.
The trade deficit increased 8.5% to $40.3 billion from March’s revised figure of $37.1 billion, the Commerce Department said Tuesday. The March deficit was the smallest since late 2009.
Analysts had expected the trade deficit to balloon more last month, to about $41.1 billion.
Imports of consumer goods jumped $3 billion in April, the biggest component of an overall $5.4-billion rise in imports in April, as Americans purchased more foreign-made cellphones and automobiles, and U.S. businesses increased their imports of computers and telecommunications equipment.
Petroleum imports dropped for the third month in a row.
Exports rose just $2.2 billion. The recession in Europe and slower growth in China has impeded growth in global demand for U.S. products.
Still, the $187.4 billion in U.S. exports in April was the most this year and the second-highest level ever, topped only by $188.7 billion in December.
Exports of U.S.-made automobiles and parts were a key factor in export growth, rising to a record high of $12.8 billion.