WASHINGTON—Cheaper U.S. energy prices and lower demand for foreign oil helped narrow the U.S. trade gap in January.
The trade deficit shrank to a seasonally adjusted $41.75 billion in January, the Commerce Department said Friday, as crude imports fell and created the lowest deficit for petroleum products in over a decade.
December’s deficit was revised to $45.6 billion from an initially reported $46.56 billion. Economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal had forecast a trade deficit of $41 billion in January.
Overall, exports decreased 2.9% from December to $189.41 billion, and imports also fell 3.9% to $231.16 billion.
The drop off in both imports and exports reflects an array of factors, primarily the steep drop in crude oil prices, but also disruptions related to a West Coast port labor dispute, a firming dollar and the relative strength of the U.S. economy.
After topping $100 a barrel in June, benchmark oil prices declined sharply, reaching below $45 in January.
Last month, the trade deficit for petroleum products fell to $10.69 billion, its lowest level since November 2003. The average price of a barrel of imported crude oil was $58.96 in January, down from $73.64 in December and $90.21 a year earlier, the Commerce Department said.