WASHINGTON, D.C. (MCT) — The U.S. trade deficit narrowed in February for the largest percentage drop since May 2009, according to a government report released Thursday that led analysts to raise estimates for first-quarter economic growth.
The deficit measuring the difference between the nation’s imports and exports hit $46 billion in February, compared with $52.5 billion in January — a 12.4 percent drop, according to the Commerce Department.
Exports and imports are an important component of U.S. gross domestic product, and deficits subtract from growth. Following the report, economists polled by MarketWatch upwardly revised their estimates for first-quarter GDP growth to an annual rate of 2.3 percent from a prior consensus forecast of 2 percent.
Economists had expected the trade gap to narrow due to holiday-related variations from the Chinese New Year.
The trade deficit with China narrowed by 26 percent in February, hitting $19.4 billion, compared with $26 billion in January.
Elsewhere Thursday, the U.S. Labor Department reported that the number of Americans who applied last week for jobless benefits rose to the highest level in two and a half months.