Shipping containers lie on the dock in Los Angeles, California, October 7, 2010. REUTERS

The U.S. trade deficit rose 4.3 percent in January, higher than economists expected, as exports to China plunged, the Commerce Department said Friday.

The January trade deficit climbed $2.2 billion from December's level to $52.6 billion in January, as a $4.7 billion import increase offset a $2.6 billion export increase. Analysts polled by Dow Jones Newswires predicted a $48.4 billion deficit.

Overall, the nation imported $233.4 billion of goods and services in January and exported $180.8 billion.

The largest part of January's deficit was with China at $26 billion, up $2.9 billion from the month before, followed by OPEC and the European Union. The trade deficit with the European Union decreased by $1.1 billion.

The average trade deficit for the three months ending in January was $50.2 billion, up by $3.2 billion from the three-month average trade deficit ending in December.

The largest part of January's exports were capital goods at $1.3 billion, automotive vehicles, parts and engines at $1.1 billion and foods, feeds and beverages at $500 million. However, exports of industrial supplies and materials fell by $300 million and consumer goods by $200 million.

While exports of cars, automotive parts and engines increased, imports in that category increased at an even greater rate by $2.4 billion from December to January. Likewise, industrial supplies and materials were up $1.1 billion. Food, feed and beverage imports and imports of consumer goods rose more modestly by $0.4 billion and $0.2 billion, respectively.