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Economic Report: U.S. trade deficit dips to $89.2 billion, but stays near record high

The numbers: The U.S. trade deficit fell slightly in February to $89.2 billion from a record high in the first month of the year, reflecting an ongoing surge in imports and stepped-up efforts to clear out congested U.S. ports.

Economists polled by The Wall Street Journal had forecast a $88.5 billion trade gap.

Imports rose 1.3% in February to $317.8 billion. Exports climbed 1.8% to $X228.6 billion.

Last year, the U.S. posted the highest trade deficit ever. The U.S. economy has recovered faster than other countries and that’s allowed Americans to spend more on imported goods. Exports have rebounded more slowly.

Big picture: The U.S. economy is likely to show a paltry increase in growth in the first quarter — at least officially — and the record trade deficit is a big reason why. High deficits subtract from gross domestic product, the official scorecard for the economy.

Yet by most other measures, the U.S. is still expanding at a fairly strong pace. Consumer spending, the main driver of the economy, has accelerated and most businesses are hiring.

The U.S. has run large deficits for years without much effect on the broader economy.

Market reaction: The Dow Jones Industrial Average
DJIA,
+0.30%

and S&P 500
DJIA,
+0.30%

were set to lower in Tuesday trades. Stocks have rebounded in the past few weeks after a recent “correction” that sent shares sharply lower.

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