US trade deficit edges lower in March

Canadian exports hit record high in March as trade deficit narrows

The US trade deficit drifted lower in March despite record imports from Mexico and a drop in total exports, the Commerce Department reported Thursday.

Analysts in a Reuters poll had forecast a shortfall of C$800 million. Statscan revised February's deficit to $1.08 billion from an initial $972 million.

Shortly afterwards, the USA administration slapped tariffs on Canadian exports of softwood lumber and complained about Canada's dairy sector, helping to sink the Canadian dollar to 14-month lows. VP and chief economist Peter Hall joins BNN to discuss this and why Canadian businesses shouldn't let trade uncertainty stand in the way of taking advantage of opportunities.

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Imports from countries other than the USA also increased, up 1.2 per cent, on higher purchases of crude oil from Saudi Arabia, and goods from Britain.

The decline in exports was led by falling energy products: crude oil and crude bitumen exports fell 14.2 percent to $48.2 billion while annual volumes of both increased 2.7 percent.

Shepherdson of Pantheon Macroeconomics also noted that goods exports, excluding oil and aircraft, were up 7.7 per cent for the month, the best performance since October 2011.

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As a result Canada's trade surplus with the United States narrowed from Can$4.5 billion in February to Can$4.0 billion in March.

But a four-year record for Japanese imports, valued at $13.3 billion, saw the U.S. deficit with that country hit its highest level since April 2008 at $7.6 billion. At the same time, exports to the European Union and South Korea rose to records, while shipments to Germany were the highest since 2008.

"The value of Canada's annual exports decreased 0.7 percent to $521.3 billion in 2016 while imports edged down 0.1 percent to $547.3 billion", the report stated.

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Imports of goods and services slipped 0.7 percent to $234.7 billion. For all of a year ago, the gap exceeded $500 billion.

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