WASHINGTON — The nation's merchandise trade deficit hit an all-time high of $38.4 billion from October through December as higher-priced imports swamped gains in U. S. export sales, the government reported Wednesday.
The Commerce Department said the imbalance between what the nation imported and what it exported rose 3.3% from the July-September period and helped to push the annual trade deficit to a record $147.7 billion. The figure is 18.7% above the previous record high of $124.4 billion set in 1985.
The new report confirmed reports released earlier that put the quarterly and annual deficits even higher.
The totals in Wednesday's report are lower because they reflect trade on a "balance-of-payments" basis, omitting such factors as military sales and the cost of shipping and insurance, which are included in the department's monthly merchandise trade figures.
During the final three months of 1986, imports rose 3% to $95.7 billion, while export sales advanced 2.8% to $57.3 billion.