The numbers: The nation’s trade deficit widened 1.9% to $68.2 billion in January, the Commerce Department said Friday.
Economists polled by Dow Jones and The Wall Street Journal had forecast a $67.6 billion gap.
The trade deficit in December was revised to a gap of $67 billion versus the prior estimate of $66.6 billion.
The trade gap is close to a 14-year high of $69 billion reached in November.
What happened: Imports rose 1.2% in January to $260.2 billion. Gains were led by consumer goods such as pharmaceuticals.
Exports rose 1% to $191.9 billion in January. Exports are still down more than 7.5% from last year.
Both imports and exports of services declined slightly in January. The services surplus is near an eight-year low while the goods trade deficit is near record levels.
Big picture: U.S. economic growth is expected to push higher this year and the trade gap is seen widening as a result.
President Biden’s nominee to be the top trade official signaled this week that Washington won’t ignore rising trade deficits as has been the case under prior administrations. Katherine Tai, who Biden has nominated to become U.S. Trade Representative, told Congress earlier this week that trade liberalization in the past led to less prosperity and higher unemployment.
What are they saying? “The signal from the overall ISM manufacturing index and the export order sub-index is that the recovery in merchandise export and import volumes is going to persist, at least in the short-term,” said Josh Shapiro, chief U.S. economist at MFR Inc.
Market reaction: U.S. stocks were mixed Friday after the government released a strong February jobs report. The Dow Jones Industrial Average /zigman2/quotes/210598065/realtime DJIA +0.48% was up 0.3% and the S&P 500 index /zigman2/quotes/210599714/realtime SPX +0.36% was up 0.1% while the Nasdaq Composite /zigman2/quotes/210598365/realtime COMP +0.10% slid 0.8% as investors worried about rising long-term interest rates.