WASHINGTON — The nation's broadest measure of foreign trade surged to a near-record deficit of $30.5 billion during the July-September quarter, pushing the country farther into the status as a debtor nation, the Commerce Department reported today.
The deficit in the current account, also known as the country's balance of payments, was 9.9% higher than the $27.7 billion in the April-June quarter. It was the largest quarterly total since a record $31.8 billion in the final three months of 1984.
The current account measures not only trade in merchandise but also in services, mainly investment earnings.
The Commerce Department also reported today that housing construction fell 12.2% in November, for the steepest decline in six months.
With mortgage rates at their lowest levels in six years, analysts have been puzzled by the weakness in housing activity.
The latest decline left construction at an annual rate of 1.55 million units last month, the lowest pace since April of 1983. The month-to-month decline was the sharpest since a 13% drop in March.
Housing starts had risen 9% in October following a 7.1% September decline.
All regions of the country suffered a decline in building activity. The biggest drop, 31.25%, came in the Northeast, a region which for most of the year has enjoyed a sharp rebound as the area's economic fortunes revived.