WASHINGTON—The U.S. trade deficit shot up in July to the highest level in six months as a surge in shipments of foreign oil and autos pushed imports up by a record amount.
The Commerce Department said Thursday that the trade deficit rose 16.3 percent to $32 billion in July, much larger than the $27.4 billion imbalance that economists had expected. It was the largest imbalance since January and the percentage increase was the biggest in more than a decade.
Imports rose 4.7 percent, the largest monthly advance on records that go back to 1992, while exports edged up a smaller 2.2 percent. Both gains provided evidence that the most severe recession since World War II was beginning to lose its grip on the global economy.
Foreign oil imports also rose in July, climbing 3.6 percent to $22.4 billion, the highest total since December, as the volume of shipments increased and the average price for an imported barrel of crude oil rose to $62.48 in July, up from $59.17 in June. It was the highest price for crude since last November but still well below the records approaching $150 per barrel set in the summer of 2008.
America’s foreign oil bill is expected to rise further in the months ahead given that world oil prices have continued to climb. Oil was trading near $72 per barrel on Thursday.