U.S. trade deficit increases to $50 billion

March saw the U.S. trade deficit widen slightly, the Commerce Department revealed on Thursday, May 9.

According to the report, the deficit in goods and services grew marginally after demand from within for foreign goods saw imports jump.

The trade deficit increased by 1.5% from figures posted in February, rising to an adjusted $50 billion over March.

That comes even as an economic survey conducted by Refinitiv showed that economists had forecast the U.S. trade deficit for March to rise to about $50.2 billion, up from $49.3 billion as revised figures for February showed.

At the current rates, the March trade deficit might have widened but overall, it does not come close to that of December last year. The end of 2018 saw trade deficit climb to a high of $59.9 billion, the largest gap witnessed in the last decade.

The goods and services year-to-date deficit declined $5.8 billion, or close to 3.7%, from that recorded a year ago. On the other hand, the month-over-month performance saw imports rise by 1.1% to a total of $261.97 billion.

The increase in U.S. imports was mostly attributed to rising purchases in the energy and crude oil sectors, which spiked by $1.4 billion. U.S. exports meanwhile, surged by 1% thanks to soybean exports that ballooned 39% in March.

Rising soybean exports are reportedly due to the Chinese electing to increase imports. The decision came after talks between U.S. president Donald Trump and Xi Jinping of China in December 2018 proved to be productive. The two leaders had met in Argentina during the G20 summit.

The agreement had sought to have China increase its purchases of U.S. products in the sectors of agriculture and energy, among others. The goal was to decrease the trade imbalance that existed between the two countries.

The latest U.S. trade data is being released at a time when the global markets are beginning to feel the effects of trade tensions. Meanwhile, attention turns to China after it threatened to retaliate after the 25% tariff came into effect on Friday.