Record oil import prices helped keep the U.S. trade deficit near historically high levels in June, even as the monthly tally dipped slightly from an upwardly revised estimate for May, the U.S. Commerce Department said on Thursday.

Buoyed by average oil import prices of $62.04 per barrel, the trade deficit totaled $64.8 billion in June, or only $400 million more than the midpoint estimate of analysts surveyed before the report.

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However, the Commerce Department raised its estimate of the May trade shortfall to $65.0 billion, from its previous estimate of $63.8 billion.

The June trade gap was the fifth highest on record, while May's was the third highest.

Meanwhile, the trade gap for the first half of 2006 totaled $383.9 billion, compared to $340.2 billion at the same point in 2005. If the deficit were the same in the second half of 2006, it would total a record $767.8 billion for the year.

The United States imported a record $20.5 billion worth of crude oil in June, compared to $14.6 billion the same month last year, as international tensions and worldwide demand pushed oil prices to new highs.

Total petroleum imports were $27.3 billion in June, the second highest level on record.

U.S. imports from the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries were $13.5 billion in June, down only slightly from the record $13.6 billion in May. The total value of imports from OPEC has risen 28.2 percent in the first half of 2006 to $71.5 billion.

Meanwhile, the United States also imported record levels of consumer goods and near record levels of autos and auto parts in June. Overall imports of goods and services hit a record $185.5 billion during the month.

Imports from China were the second highest on record at $24.1 billion.

U.S. exports of goods and services also set a record in June at $120.7 billion, powered by individual records in several categories - food, feeds and beverages; industrial supplies and materials; and capital goods.

U.S. exports to the European Union and South and Central America set a record in June, while exports to Japan were the highest since March 2001.

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