US

US current account deficit narrows to lowest level in 14 years as exports, income rises

FILE - In this Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2013, file photo, container ships wait to be off loaded in a thick fog at the Port of Oakland in Oakland, Calif. The Commerce Department releases current account trade measure for the fourth quarter on Wednesday, March 19, 2014.  (AP Photo/Ben Margot, File)

FILE - In this Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2013, file photo, container ships wait to be off loaded in a thick fog at the Port of Oakland in Oakland, Calif. The Commerce Department releases current account trade measure for the fourth quarter on Wednesday, March 19, 2014. (AP Photo/Ben Margot, File)  (The Associated Press)

Large increases in exports and overseas investment income narrowed the U.S. current account deficit to the lowest level in 14 years in the October-December quarter.

The Commerce Department says the imbalance fell to $81.1 billion in the fourth quarter, down from $96.4 billion in the July-September quarter. That's the smallest gap since the third quarter of 1999.

The rise in goods exports was driven by petroleum and agricultural products.

The current account is the country's broadest measure of trade, covering not only goods and services but also investment flows. A smaller trade deficit usually means that U.S. companies are producing more to meet domestic and overseas demand.

U.S. exports of goods and services rose 1.8 percent in the fourth quarter from the third, while overseas investment income rose 4.3 percent.