The US trade deficit widened more than expected in September although import prices increased less than expected, suggesting that inflation in remaining steady.

The US Census Bureau reported Friday that the trade deficit rose 18.2 percent to $36.5 billion in September as imports continued to offset export gains. The trade gap with China reached its highest level in nearly a year. Analysts widely expected the deficit would widen to $32 billion.

September exports in rose 2.9 percent to $132.0 billion from $128.30 billion the previous month, while imports rose twice as much, growing 5.8 percent to $168.4 billion from $159.1 billion.

The exports rise, buoyed by a weaker dollar, represented the fifth consecutive month, although exports remain around 20 percent below the peak hit in July 2008.

The US paid $19.51 billion for crude oil imports in September, up from $17.38 billion the month before. Crude import volumes rose to 286.22 million barrels from 268.43 million. The total bill for all types of energy-related imports rose to nearly $24.87 billion from $22.39 billion in August.

The Trade deficit with China rose in September to its highest level in nearly a year, reaching $22.1 billion from the previous month's $20.2 billion as the pace of rising imports continued to offset smaller export gains.

The massive trade deficit with China is likely to be a subject of discussion as President Barack Obama embarks on his first trip to Asia as president.