WASHINGTON – The U.S. trade deficit rose in February to the highest level in six months as the growth in imports outpaced a modest rise in exports.
The Commerce Department says the trade gap widened to $47.1 billion, up 2.6 percent from a January imbalance of $45.9 billion.
Exports increased 1 percent to $178.1 billion, boosted by increased sales of U.S.-made autos. It was the first climb since September. Imports were up 1.3 percent to $225.1 billion, despite a drop in oil imports which fell to the lowest level in 13 years.
Trade has become a big issue in the presidential campaign with Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Bernie Sanders blaming the deficits on unfair trading actions by countries such as China and Mexico. Higher deficits subtract from economic growth.