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US loses ground on metals trade gap

Jul 05, 2013 | 06:20 PM |

Tags  U.S. trade, iron and steel, metal scrap, copper, aluminum, China, Gregory Daco, IHS Global Insight corinna petry

CHICAGO — The value of U.S. iron and steel mill exports totaled $915 million in May, up 4.7 percent from the previous month, but imports increased 3.2 percent to more than $1.5 billion and the trade deficit for the products rose 1 percent, the latest U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis report shows.

Copper imports jumped 44.5 percent to $662 million in May while exports rose 9.8 percent to $765 million, leading the trade surplus to fall 57 percent from April.

The trade surplus for metalliferous ores and metal scrap grew 33.7 percent month over month, with exports rising 21.5 percent to nearly $2.38 billion and imports falling 1.2 percent to $675 million.

U.S. producers exported aluminum and alumina valued at $783 million during May, down 2.6 percent from April, while imports of bauxite and aluminum rose 1.2 percent to $892 million.

The steel trade deficit for the first five months of 2013 fell 25.4 percent compared with a year earlier. The copper surplus declined 84.1 percent and the metal ores and scrap surplus dipped 2.6 percent.

Nickel imports rose 3.3 percent in May compared with the previous month, zinc imports gained 4.9 percent and tin imports jumped 12.9 percent.

Metallurgical coal exports increased 15.9 percent in May.

The U.S. trade deficit grew 12.2 percent from April to $45 billion. The trade deficit with China, which rose 15.8 percent month over month, accounted for nearly 77.6 percent of the total. The U.S. trade deficit with the European Union fell 12.9 percent in May to $10.8 billion.

"Total exports slipped for the month as goods imports rose in volume but fell in value. This muted picture is not surprising when global growth is lackluster," said Gregory Daco, senior economist for Lexington, Mass.-based consultancy IHS Global Insight. "Foreign trade was a drag on real GDP (gross domestic product) growth in the first quarter; it will most likely remain one for the remainder of the year."

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