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February 11, 2011 8:30 AM, EST

U.S. Trade Deficit Widens

Tim Rue/Bloomberg News

The U.S. trade deficit widened for a second straight month in December on higher oil imports, the Commerce Department said Friday.

The gap between imports and exports rose 5.9% to $40.6 billion, in line with economists’ forecasts, Bloomberg reported.

For the year, the trade deficit jumped 43%, the most in a decade, to $497.8 billion, from $374.9 billion in 2009.

Imports rose 2.6% to $203.5 billion, the most since October 2008. Crude oil purchases rose to $22.5 billion, from $19.8 billion, as oil prices surged.

Exports rose 1.8% to $163 billion, the most since July 2008, led by automobiles, chemicals and industrial machines.