The United States saw its trade deficit widen for the second month as the cold weather and weak global economy continued to hamper movement of goods.
But with the cold weather waning, next month’s figures are expected to perform better.
The trade deficit increased to $42.3 billion in February up from $39.3 billion at the start of the month, the Commerce Department said Thursday. Compared to February last year, the trade deficit was at $43.3 billion.
The deficit was mainly due to a drop in exports.
February exports dropped to $190.4 billion from $192.5 billion. Imports totaled $232.7 billion, higher by $1 billion.
“This is a temporary weakness. Generally the U.S. was restrained by the weather,” said David Sloan, senior economist at 4Cast Ltd.
“We should see better numbers next month.”
Economists’ expectations were around $38.5 billion. Thursday’s numbers were even lower than the bottom forecast of $41 billion.
Some analysts, however, noted it is not just the weather that kept trade below expectations in February.
“The weather is a feeble excuse. The global economy is just not doing well, people are not spending and companies are stuck with inventory,” said Steven Ricchiuto, chief economist of Mizuho Securities USA.
Large economies that the U.S. trades with, like China, experienced a slow down in February.
Chinese exports in February were down by 18.1 percent and factory data during that month pointed to a deceleration of manufacturing. The trend continued in March figures released by the Chinese government this week.
The U.S. trade deficit with China in February stood at $28.6 million.
Canada and Mexico continued to take most of the U.S.’s exports.
Import-export companies are feeling the difficulty in the import-export market.
“The ports were a mess, maybe it was the weather,” said Ed Stubin, vice president of textile export and import firm Trans-Americas Trading Co.
Cost of products from China also increased according to exporters making it more expensive to buy and import to the U.S.
Exports of industrial goods, which include petroleum products, fell to $41 billion from $43.7 billion.
Petroleum exports dipped to $5 billion from $5.9 billion in January.
Petroleum imports also fell slightly but crude oil went up.
Ricchiuto believes the drop in petroleum exports has more to do with price adjustments of the commodity rather than actual volume so demand is steady.
Sloan also sees a bounce back in petroleum exports and imports next month.
Capital goods also contributed to the decrease in exports by dropping $900 million.
U.S. exports saw some good news, however, with consumer goods going up by $1.2 billion and an increase in auto parts.
Imports were mainly pushed up by auto parts and consumer goods, which could paint, to a healthier demand for those items in the economy.