The numbers: The U.S. international trade deficit in goods rose in August and stood near a record high, as retailers imported more consumer goods ahead of the holiday shopping season.
The trade gap in goods widened 0.9% to $87.6 billion in August, the government said Tuesday.
Goods imports increased 0.8% to $236.6 billion — just a hair below the all-time high set in June.
U.S. exports, meanwhile, moved up 0.7% to $149 billion and set a new record.
Big picture: Already high deficits have set fresh records during the pandemic because the U.S. economy has recovered faster than other countries. Americans can afford to buy more imports and they’ve increased faster than exports.
Record deficits are likely to recede once the global pandemic is over, but they are sure to remain quite high. The U.S. has become dependent on imported goods over the past few decades.
Key details: Imports of consumer goods such as cell phones, computers and toys jumped 4.6% in August.
Retailers are trying to stock up earlier than usual to make sure they have enough products on their shelves before the holiday shopping season starts in late November. There’s been widespread shortages of lots of products and big delays at U.S. ports where these goods are unloaded.
Car and truck imports, on the other hand, fell again amid an ongoing shortage of computer chips that limited auto production and raised prices to record highs.
The U.S. exported more industrial supplies, but shipments of American-made autos fell sharply as expected. General Motors /zigman2/quotes/205226835/composite GM +1.28% and Ford /zigman2/quotes/208911460/composite F +3.18% have had to stop some assembly lines temporarily because of the semiconductor crunch.
The full report on the August trade balance, which includes services such as tourism, will be released next week.
The government on Tuesday also said wholesale inventories shot up 1.2% in August while retail inventories inched up 0.1%, based on an “advanced” looked at early data.
All three of these reports help determine the speed of growth in the U.S. economy as measured by gross domestic product.
Market reaction: The Dow Jones Industrial Average /zigman2/quotes/210598065/realtime DJIA -0.02% and S&P500 /zigman2/quotes/210599714/realtime SPX +0.30% were set to open lower in Tuesday action. The trade report usually has little impact on investors.