The U.S. trade deficit fell by 20.7% in December, led by record petroleum exports, the Commerce Department said Friday.
The gap between imports and exports shrank to $38.5 billion from $48.7 billion in November, Commerce said.
Economists had projected a $46 billion deficit for December, Bloomberg News reported.
Imports decreased 2.7% to $224.9 billion, while exports increased 2.1% to $186.4 billion. The import decline reflected a plunge in purchases of barrels of crude oil, which dropped to the lowest level since February 1997, Bloomberg reported.
For all of 2012, the trade gap declined to $540.4 billion from $559.9 billion in 2011. Exports rose 4.4% to $2.2 trillion and imports rose 2.7% to 2.74 trillion.