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U.S. trade gap widens to $45.7 billion in January

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US exports fell in 2015 for first time since recession

In this Friday, Jan. 29, 2016, file photo, an Icelandic cargo ship is loaded with containers in Portland, Maine.  (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty, File)

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WASHINGTON • The U.S. trade deficit rose in January as American exports fell for a fourth straight month, the Commerce Department said Friday.

The gap between exports and imports climbed to $45.7 billion in January from a revised $44.7 billion in December. Exports of goods and services fell 2.1 percent in January to $176.5 billion, lowest since June 2011. Exports of industrial equipment and supplies were down. American exporters have been hurt by weakness around the world and by a strong dollar that makes U.S. products more expensive overseas.

The high dollar should be helping imports by making them cheaper in America. But imports slid 1.3 percent $222.1 billion in January, lowest since April 2011. Lower oil prices explain part of the drop. Petroleum imports of $11.2 billion were the lowest since November 2003. But January imports of autos and auto parts hit a record $30.6 billion.

The deficit in the trade of goods with China rose to $31.1 billion in January from $29.7 billion. The goods gap with the European Union dropped to $12.6 billion from $13.3 billion in December.

Increasing trade deficits drag down U.S. gross domestic product — the broadest measure of economic output. Last year, the gap between exports and imports shaved more than 0.6 percentage points off annual GDP growth of 2.4 percent.

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