The US trade deficit grew to a record high in February, with exports falling more than imports as the American economic recovery picks up steam, government data showed on Wednesday.

The 4.8 percent increase in the trade deficit to $71.1 billion reported by the Commerce Department was slightly larger than analysts had forecast and up from the downwardly revised $67.8 billion in January.

Exports fell 2.6 percent to $187.3 billion and imports 0.7 percent to $258.3 billion, which Oren Klachkin of Oxford Economics said was a sign that the US economy's bounceback from the Covid-19 pandemic was beginning to outpace that of its trading partners.

"Faster US growth relative to the rest of the world has widened the trade deficit to a historic record," he said in a note.

The services surplus fell half a billion dollars to $16.9 billion, its lowest level since 2012, which Klachkin blamed on the pandemic.

The US trade deficit is expected to widen further as the economy strengthens relative to the rest of the world The US trade deficit is expected to widen further as the economy strengthens relative to the rest of the world Photo: GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / JUSTIN SULLIVAN

After plunging as the Covid-19 crisis began last year, Klachkin predicted that the trade deficit would widen further if massive stimulus checks and Covid-19 vaccines help the world's largest economy to strengthen over the coming months.

"Better health conditions, reopenings, and fiscal stimulus will boost domestic demand and keep a strong pull on imports," Klachkin said.

However, he predicted US exports would likely face a lengthier recovery as the rest of the world continues to struggle with coronavirus cases.

cs/dw