US: International Trade in Goods

Thu May 25 07:30:00 CDT 2017

Consensus Consensus Range Actual Previous Revised
Balance $-64.6B $-65.5B to $-62.0B $-67.6B $-64.8B $-65.1B
Exports % change -0.9% -1.7% -0.3%
Imports % change 0.7% -0.7% 0.1%

A key early indication on the strength of second-quarter GDP is not favorable as the nation's goods deficit widened $2.5 billion in April to $67.6 billion. Exports of goods continue to show weakness, down 0.9 percent in the month to $125.9 billion that show sharp declines for vehicles and consumer goods. Imports of goods, which are a subtraction in the national accounts, rose 0.7 percent in the month to $193.4 billion with consumer goods and agriculture both rising.

Also released with this report are advance data on wholesale and retail inventories, both down 0.3 percent in the month and also negatives for GDP.

A widening trade deficit that includes a weakening in exports is a negative for the economy, pointing to currency outflow and soft global demand. In contrast, the draws in inventories, though negatives for GDP, are positives for the outlook, lowering the risk of unwanted overhang and pointing to the promise of having to rebuild stocks.

Market Consensus Before Announcement
The goods deficit in March widened slightly on export declines for industrial supplies and consumer goods and an import jump for cars. The consensus for the April gap is $64.7 billion vs $65.5 billion in March (revised from $64.8 billion in the advance release). April goods data will offer an early input for second-quarter GDP.

The Census Bureau is now publishing an advance report on U.S. international trade in goods. The Bureau of Economic Analysis will incorporate these data into its estimates of exports and imports for the advance GDP estimates. This is expected to reduce the size of revisions to GDP growth in the second estimates.

Changes in the levels of imports and exports, along with the difference between the two (the trade balance), are valuable gauges of economic trends here and abroad. While these trade figures can directly impact all financial markets, they primarily affect the value of the dollar in the foreign exchange market.

Imports indicate demand for foreign goods here in the United States. Exports show foreign demand for U.S. goods. The dollar can be particularly sensitive to changes in the chronic trade deficit run by the United States, since this trade imbalance creates greater demand for foreign currencies.

Market reaction to this report is complex. Typically, the smaller the trade deficit, the more bullish it is for the dollar. Also, stronger exports are bullish for corporate earnings and the stock market. Like most economic indicators, the trade balance is subject to substantial monthly variability, especially when oil prices change.

It is also useful to examine the trend growth rates for exports and imports separately because they can deviate significantly. Trends in export activity reflect both the competitive position of American industry and the strength of domestic and foreign economic activity. U.S. exports will grow when: 1) U.S. product prices are lower than foreign product prices; 2) the value of the dollar is relatively weaker than that of foreign currencies; 3) foreign economies are growing rapidly.

Imports will increase when: 1) foreign product prices are lower than prices of domestically-produced goods; 2) the value of the dollar is stronger than that of other currencies; 3) domestic demand for goods and services is robust.