U.S foreign trade balance widened slightly in December 2011, but nowhere as much as it did in November when it surged $4.1 billion figures have shown.

In December, the trade deficit increased to $48.8 billion from $47.1 billion in November. Exports rose to $178.8 billion in December, by $1.2 billion from November. Goods were $127.1 billion in December, up from $126.2 billion in November, and services were $51.7 in December, up from $51.4 billion in November.

Imports went up $3.0 billion to touch $227.6 billion in December against the previous month. Goods were $191.4 billion in December, up from $188.7 billion in November, and services were $36.2 billion in December, against $35.9 billion in November.

Gregory Daco, IHS Global Insight's U.S. expert, said that all major non-petroleum subcategories rose with the exception of food and beverage goods. The two largest import subcategories posted the strongest increases, with real consumer goods rising 2.1 percent, and real capital goods jumping two percent. When excluding pharmaceuticals, the value of consumer goods rose a much less impressive 0.8 percent, with apparel imports down 1.8 percent. On the capital goods front, semiconductors had a strong month while civilian aircraft jumped 45.7 percent. Automotive imports also had a sturdy month as domestic light-vehicles sales maintained a strong momentum.

The IHS also reports that total exports rebounded 0.7 percent in December after disappointing numbers in October and November. Automotive goods and industrial supplies led the charge while consumer and capital goods exports fell. Strong foreign demand for fuel and oil was a major factor behind the solid industrial supplies numbers while the drop in capital goods exports can be attributed to lower semiconductors, computers and telecommunication equipment exports.

On its own, this foreign trade report would give a little boost to real GDP growth in the fourth quarter bringing it slightly north of 3.0 percent, Daco added. However, wholesale inventories data for December (to be released next week) will be key in determining whether the country actually gets over that threshold. Also noteworthy is that the slower pace of exports, although still robust, will most likely prevent President Obama from reaching his goal of doubling exports from their 2009 level by 2015.