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Metals trade imbalance grows in Sept., 3d qtr.

Keywords: Tags  iron, steel, copper, aluminum, exports, imports, trade balance, Nigel Gault IHS Global Insight

CHICAGO — The U.S. trade deficit for iron and steel mill products grew 16.3 percent month on month to $719 million in September as a $63-million drop in exports more than counteracted a $38-million increase in imports.

However, the year on year iron and steel mill product trade deficit for the third quarter rose just 4.3 percent to $79 million, U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis data show.

Copper posted a trade surplus of $244 million in September, up 10.4 percent from August’s surplus of $221 million. The U.S. had a third-quarter copper trading surplus of $600 million, jumping 65.7 percent from the $362-million surplus seen during the same period in 2011.

Imports of bauxite and aluminum fell 7.5 percent to $786 million in September, following a 4.5-percent dip between July and August. September exports of aluminum and alumina fell 1.1 percent month on month.

Imports of nickel fell 4 percent in September vs. August, while zinc imports moved up 0.8 percent and tin imports fell 24.5 percent in the same comparison.

Total U.S. exports of $187 billion were offset by imports of $228.5 billion in September, resulting in a goods and services deficit of $41.5 billion, down 5.3 percent from $43.8 billion in August. The nation’s trade deficit with China grew 1.4 percent month on month.

Nigel Gault, chief U.S. economist at Lexington, Mass.-based consultancy IHS Global Insight Inc., said this was the smallest deficit since December 2010 and that the bulk of the deficit improvement came from petroleum, reflecting rising exports.

"Total export volumes were still lower in the third quarter than the second, so even though September’s improvement is welcome, it would be premature to talk of an export revival," Gault said.

Government data should soon show "whether the smaller trade gap and higher manufacturing inventory accumulation will be offset by slower wholesale and retail inventory accumulation," he added.

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