WASHINGTON — The U.S. merchandise trade deficit swelled by 20.9% to $10.5 billion in February as Americans increased their appetite for foreign goods, the government said today.
The Commerce Department said the sharp deterioration in the trade picture reflected a 5.3% increase in imports, which swamped a slight 0.6% rise in export sales. The report was in line with economists' expectations.
The February deficit, combined with a revised shortfall of $8.68 billion for January that was the lowest since last July, would translate into an annual imbalance of $115 billion. The trade gap totaled $119.76 billion in 1988.
Last year's figure represented a 21.3% improvement over 1987's record high of $152.1 billion, but analysts generally expect the positive trend to fizzle this year.