July 7, 2014 8:40 AM, EDT
Trade Gap Shrinks in May on Record Exports
Maersk Group/Flickr

The trade deficit in the U.S. narrowed more than forecast in May on record exports, signaling a pickup in global growth that will boost American manufacturers.

The gap shrank by 5.6%, the biggest drop since November, to $44.4 billion from the prior month’s $47 billion, Commerce Department figures showed. The median forecast in a Bloomberg News survey of 69 economists called for a contraction to $45 billion.

Sales to foreign customers climbed 1% on growing demand for autos and parts, petroleum products and aircraft engines.

Economic expansions abroad that are gaining traction will probably continue to invigorate demand for American goods. A narrowing deficit would mean trade becomes less of a drag on gross domestic product in the second quarter after the world’s largest economy contracted in the first three months of 2014.

Trade estimates in the Bloomberg survey ranged from gaps of $41 billion to $48 billion. The April reading was revised from a previously reported $47.2 billion deficit. Exports climbed to $195.5 billion from $193.5 billion in April.

Imports decreased 0.3% to $239.8 billion as demand for petroleum dropped to the lowest level since November 2010. Excluding petroleum, imports rose to a record as Americans bought more autos and parts, industrial machines and drilling equipment.

After eliminating the influence of prices, which generates the numbers used to calculate gross domestic product, the trade deficit narrowed to $52 billion from $53.9 billion in April.

The average so far in the second quarter, at $52.9 billion, exceeds the $49.3 billion in the first three months of the year, signaling trade is poised to again subtract from growth, although less than in the first three months of 2014.