Forget about tariffs and trade wars. Exports in May surged a convincing 2.1 percent to pull down the nation’s goods deficit to a much lower-than-expected $64.8 billion in May. The results will add further to second-quarter GDP forecasts where high-end estimates were already approaching 5 percent.
The export gain is led by a 12.8 percent monthly jump in foods & feeds and includes a 3.7 percent gain for capital goods which are the nation’s strongest exports. And consumer goods also rose, up 3.2 percent. The overall gain comes despite a 3.1 percent decline in industrial supplies, a component where swings in oil prices dominate.
Imports were nearly neutral in May, up only 0.2 percent following a 0.4 percent decline in April. Auto imports fell 1.2 percent in the month with consumer imports, which is the Achilles heel of U.S. trade, down 1.0 percent. Imports of industrial supplies, again reflecting oil prices, fell 0.7 percent. A category that shows a gain, and here perhaps a welcome one pointing to rising business investment, is imports of capital goods which jumped 3.4 percent.
This is a very healthy report and it may offer a signpost of the nation’s trade performance going into a summer of cross-border discontent.