Robust imports push U.S. trade deficit to record high in March

Stacked containers are shown as ships unload their cargo at the Port of Los Angeles in Los Angeles, California, U.S. November 22, 2021. REUTERS/Mike Blake

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. trade deficit surged to a record high in March, confirming that trade weighed on the economy in the first quarter and could remain a drag for a while as businesses replenish inventories with imported goods.

The Commerce Department said on Wednesday that the trade deficit accelerated 22.3% to $109.8 billion in March amid a record increase in imports. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast a $107 billion deficit.

The government reported last week that a record trade deficit sliced 3.20 percentage points from gross domestic product in the first quarter, resulting in GDP contracting at a 1.4% annualized rate after growing at a robust 6.9% pace in the fourth quarter.

Trade has subtracted from GDP for seven straight quarters. Imports of goods and services jumped 10.3% to $351.5 billion, outpacing a 5.6% rise in exports to $241.7 billion.

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