Lower U.S. demand for crude oil and petroleum products in April helped shrink the nation's balance-of-trade deficit from the previous month, the Commerce Department said Friday. But the trade deficit with China worsened.

Specifically, the U.S trade gap tapered down about 4.9 percent from the March level to $50.1 billion in April. On a year-over-year basis, however, the U.S trade deficit widened by nearly 8 percent from about $40 billion.

The narrowing in the trade deficit in April is encouraging, especially given that the latest fall in the oil price will reduce the cost of imported oil, Paul Dales, a senior economist at Capital Economics, said in a statement released from London. More worrying, however, he added, are the growing signs that the crisis in Europe is taking a toll on U.S exports.