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US iron, steel trade imbalance widens

Keywords: Tags  trade balance, imports and exports, iron and steel, copper, aluminum, nickel, tin, zinc China

CHICAGO — The gap between iron and steel imports and exports rose 18.4 percent last year as imports exceeded exports by more than $8.62 billion, according to U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis data.

Copper continued to trade in a surplus, jumping 66.3 percent from 2011 to more than $2.84 billion.

Aluminum and alumina exports fell 2.5 percent last year, while imports of bauxite and aluminum were down 5.7 percent. Lower imports also were recorded for nickel (down 20 percent to $2.89 billion), zinc (down 16.4 percent to $1.51 billion) and tin (down 14.9 percent to $833 million).

Exports of all U.S. goods totaled nearly $1.55 trillion last year, up 4.5 percent from $1.48 trillion in 2007, but imports of $2.28 trillion (up 3 percent from $2.21 trillion) resulted in a trade deficit of $727.91 billion, marginally higher than the 2011 deficit of $727.39 billion.

"While Washington is paralyzed over budget deficits, it’s ignoring the unacceptably high trade deficits that have forced too many workers over the cliff as their jobs have been outsourced and lost to outdated and failed trade policies," United Steelworkers union president Leo W. Gerard said in a statement. "The trade policy cliff should be the real worry in Washington."

Overall, December imports fell and exports rose. However, Gregory Daco, senior principal economist for IHS Global Insight, Lexington, Mass., urged caution. "Despite this favorable headline gain, the underlying details were more mitigated," he said. "Most of the export gain came from a 9.6-percent jump in industrial supplies, which included a 42-percent surge in nonmonetary gold. Automotive and consumer goods were also down for the month."

December’s trade "will most likely erase the fourth-quarter decline in real GDP (gross domestic product)" from the government’s estimate of negative 0.1 percent to a revised positive 0.5 percent, Daco said.

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