The U.S. trade deficit increased 8.1 percent in the first six months of 2002, while the total for June narrowed only slightly from the record level set in May, the Commerce Department said on Tuesday.

The trade gap, which measures the difference between imports and exports of goods and services, totaled $206.01 billion for January through June, an increase of $15.52 billion from the same six months in 2001.

The June deficit of $37.16 billion was down slightly from the record set in May of $37.84 billion and also was in line with market expectations. The tally for June gives the second quarter of 2002 the distinguishing feature of having the three highest monthly trade deficits on record.

U.S. exports totaled $82.02 billion in June, up 1.7 percent from May and the highest level since August 2001. But for the January through June period, U.S. exports fell to $476.4 billion, down 8.9 percent from the first six months of 2001.

U.S. imports rose to $119.2 billion in June, the highest level since March 2001, but an increase of only 0.5 percent from May. Imports for January through June fell to $682.4 billion, down 4.3 percent from the first two quarters last year.