US

US trade deficit widens to $42.3 billion in February, highest in 5 months, as exports fall

FILE - In this Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2013, file photo, container ships wait to be off loaded in a thick fog in Oakland, Calif. The Commerce Department reports on the U.S. trade deficit for February Thursday April 3, 2014 at 8:30 a.m. EDT. (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 in Oakland, Calif. The Commerce Department reports on the U.S. trade deficit for February Thursday April 3, 2014 at 8:30 a.m. EDT. (AP Photo/Ben Margot, File)  (The Associated Press)

The U.S. trade deficit climbed to the highest level in five months in February as demand for American exports fell while imports increased slightly.

The Commerce Department says the deficit increased to $42.3 billion, 7.7 percent above the January imbalance of $39.3 billion.

U.S. exports slipped 1.1 percent to $190.4 billion as sales of commercial aircraft, computers and farm goods fell. Imports edged up 0.4 percent to $232.7 billion, reflecting gains in imports of autos and clothing which offset a drop in crude oil, which fell to the lowest level in more than three years.

A higher trade deficit acts as a drag on economic growth because it means U.S. companies are making less overseas than their foreign competitors are earning in U.S. sales.