The U.S. Census Bureau and the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis said total January exports of $184.5 billion and imports of $228.9 billion resulted in a goods and services deficit of $44.4 billion, up from $38.1 billion in December.
While analysts had expected the trade deficit to widen to $42.6 billion, some suggest that net external trade will make either a neutral or slightly negative contribution to first-quarter GDP growth.
“We had previously expected net trade to be a small positive, but the better news on inventory accumulation over the past few days means that we still anticipate overall GDP growth of about 2.0 percent annualized,” Paul Ashworth, chief U.S. Economist at Capital Economics, said in an email.
The department also lowered its estimate of the December trade gap to $38.1 billion, from $38.5 billion previously.
According to Ashworth, the figures reflected a jump in fuel purchases. The number of barrels of imported crude jumped to 8.41 million, the most since August, from 7.19 million in December. That swamped a decrease in the cost of the fuel to push the value of such imports to $24.5 billion from $21.2 billion.
Excluding petroleum, the trade shortfall was little changed at $20.1 billion, compared with $19.5 billion in December.
Following the release of the data, the U.S. dollar remained lower against the euro, with EUR/USD rising 0.61 percent to trade at 1.3047.