The Commerce Department reported this morning that the U.S. trade deficit is down to $56.5 billion, its lowest level in more than 2 years, thanks in part to a jump in exports during the month of September. U.S. exports increased 1.1% to reach a record $140.1 billion, while imports into the U.S. rose 0.6% to $196.6 billion, the second-highest level ever. Ahead of the report, economists were expecting the trade deficit to rise to $59.3 billion. The August trade deficit was downwardly revised to $56.8 billion from the original number of $57.6 billion.
On a year-over-year basis, the trade deficit has declined about 14%. Exports are up 14%, while imports are up 4.9% (without adjusting for price fluctuations). The most recent results were boosted by a decline in the U.S. dollar that's been a boon for exports. Record shipments of capital goods, industrial materials, and food helped bolster export strength during the quarter. Simultaneously, imports have slipped as they've become more expensive.
Separately, the Labor Department noted that import prices rose a total of 1.8% during the month of October, logging their biggest rise in a year and a half. Petroleum prices applied plenty of upward pressure, rising 6.9% for the period and 41.4% for the year. Excluding petroleum, import prices climbed just 0.3%. Export prices added 0.9% on an increase in agricultural products.
Imports from the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries declined more than 4%, easing off the record $15.9 billion mark set in August. The volume of imported oil fell to its lowest level since February, slumping to 9.9 million barrels per day. The average price of a barrel of oil spiked to a record-high $68.51, but the U.S. imported petroleum bill crept lower to $20.4 billion from $21.7 billion.