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Iron, steel trade deficit rises in Feb. as copper moves to surplus

Keywords: Tags  trade balance, iron, steel, copper, aluminum, alumina, bauxite, China trade Greg Daco

CHICAGO — The U.S. trade deficit for iron and steel mill products grew 11.5 percent month on month in February to $657 million, as exports slipped and imports rose 4.2 percent, according to the latest Bureau of Economic Analysis data.

However, the iron and steel mill products deficit for the first two months of the year fell more than 20 percent to $1.25 billion.

While copper trade moved to a $179-million surplus from a $153-million deficit in January, the red metal’s surplus for the first two months of the year fell 94.7 percent to $26 million.

U.S. exports of aluminum and alumina increased 10.6 percent in February vs. January, but fell 0.5 percent for the first two months of the year. U.S. imports of bauxite and aluminum fell 4.3 percent month on month (to $885 million) and 6.1 percent year on year (to $1.81 billion).

In other metals, tin imports fell 5.2 percent in February, while zinc and nickel imports rose 9.1 percent and 13.9 percent, respectively. Metallurgical coal exports fell 10.5 percent to $634 million.

All U.S. exports totaled $186 billion in February while imports equaled $228.9 billion, resulting in a goods and services deficit that fell 3.4 percent month on month to $43 billion. The trade deficit with China fell 15.8 percent to $23.4 billion, while the deficit with Europe rose 2.3 percent and that with Japan fell 3.3 percent.

"Exports were boosted in large part by unusual suspects: fuel oil and petroleum products, both of which we will grow accustomed to seeing at the top of the list as net oil imports continue to decline. Automotive goods provided the rest of the export gains," Gregory Daco, senior principal economist for Lexington, Mass.-based IHS Global Insight Inc., said. "This report will likely provide a small upward nudge to an already high first-quarter real (gross domestic product) growth estimate."

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