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Iron, steel deficit shrinks in October

Keywords: Tags  metals trade, trade balance, iron and steel, copper, aluminum, bauxite, tin, nickel zinc

CHICAGO — The U.S. trade deficit for iron and steel mill products fell 15.2 percent month on month to $608 million in October on a $27-million rise in exports and an $82-million drop in imports.

The decline nearly reversed a 16.3-percent increase in the deficit during September compared with August (, Nov. 12).

Year to date, the trade deficit for iron and steel mill products has risen 13.5 percent to $7.21 billion, Bureau of Economic Analysis data show.

Copper posted a trade surplus of $142 million in October, down 41.8 percent from September’s surplus of $244 million. The United States posted a copper trading surplus of well above $2.64 billion through the first 10 months of 2012, more than doubling from the $955-million surplus recorded during the same 2011 period.

Imports of bauxite and aluminum increased 4.2 percent to $822 million in October, while exports of aluminum and alumina fell 4.3 percent.

Imports of tin jumped 50 percent month on month in October, while nickel imports dropped 22 percent and zinc imports rose 8.3 percent. Year to date, imports of all three alloys fell between 18 and 21 percent.

Total U.S. exports of $180.5 billion were offset by imports of $222.8 billion in October, resulting in a goods-and-services deficit that rose 4.7 percent month on month. There was a $29.47-billion trade deficit with China, up 1.4 percent from September, and a 22.5-percent jump in the nation’s trade deficit with the European Union, which was calculated at $10.6 billion.

Although potential disruptions from Hurricane Sandy in late October weren’t noted in the report, "our view is that Sandy most likely had some impact on trade volumes in the last three days of October," Nigel Gault, chief U.S. economist at Lexington, Mass.-based consultancy IHS Global Insight Inc., said Tuesday.

Excluding potential weather disruptions, "it is clear that the global appetite for U.S. goods and services has decreased," he said, adding that the decline in capital goods exports reflected "a sharp drop in the volatile civilian aircraft category," while exports of automotive vehicles, parts and engines slipped 3.1 percent.

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