The U.S. trade deficit rose in April to the highest level since January. The politically sensitive trade gap with China registered a sharp increase.
The Commerce Department said Friday that the U.S. trade gap in goods and services climbed 5.2 percent to $47.6 billion in April from March. Exports dropped 0.3 percent to $191 billion, pulled down by a drop in automotive exports. Imports rose 0.8 percent to $238.6 billion as Americans bought more foreign-made cellphones and other consumer goods.
A widening trade deficit is a drag on economic growth. Donald Trump made the trade gap -- the difference between exports and imports -- a centerpiece of his presidential campaign. His administration has vowed to reduce the deficit, blaming it on abusive practices by America's trading partners.
The deficit in goods with China rose by 12.4 percent to $27.6 billion in April.
So far this year, the trade deficit is up 13.4 percent from a year earlier to $186.6 billion. Exports are up 6.1 percent to $765.6 billion this year, but imports are up more -- 7.5 percent to $952.2 billion. So far in 2017, the United States is running a $268.7 billion deficit in goods and an $82.1 billion surplus in services such as banking and tourism.
Trump recently has singled out Germany for criticism, saying it is unfairly benefiting from a weak euro. When a country's currency is weak, its products enjoy a price advantage in foreign markets. The trade deficit with Germany rose 4.3 percent in April to $5.5 billion.