Reporting from Washington — The U.S. trade deficit narrowed for a fourth straight month in November, government data showed Thursday, confounding economists who had expected an increase.
The nation's trade deficit contracted 0.3% to $38.3 billion from a revised $38.4 billion in October, the Commerce Department said, making it the smallest trade gap since January 2010.
Analysts surveyed by MarketWatch had expected the deficit to widen to $40.3 billion.
The trade deficit shrank 13.9% in October.
The last time the deficit shrank four months in a row was in late 2008 and early 2009.
Both exports and imports rose in November, but exports expanded at a slightly faster pace.
U.S. exports are rising because of faster growth in emerging markets and the decline in the dollar's value in foreign-exchange trading late last summer, economists said.
The improvement in the trade sector could lead economists to revise upward their forecasts for fourth-quarter growth in gross domestic product. Before the trade data was released, forecasts for GDP growth in the final three months of the year had hovered at just above a 3% annual rate.