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US trade deficit widens to $50 billion in March

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The U.S. goods and services deficit with its global trading partners widened slightly in March as demand for foreign goods buoyed imports, according to a government report published Thursday.

The trade deficit rose 1.5% from February to a seasonally adjusted $50 billion in March, the Commerce Department said Thursday. Economists surveyed by Refinitiv expected the U.S. trade deficit in March to fall to $50.2 billion from a revised $49.3 billion in February.

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Though the trade deficit widened in March, it remains below the recent December high. The trade gap ballooned to $59.9 billion at the end of 2018, which was the largest gap in 10 years.

On a year-to-date basis, the goods and services deficit decreased $5.8 billion, or 3.7%, from the same period in 2018; on a month-over-month basis, imports rose 1.1% to $261.97 billion, the Commerce Department said.

Much of the bump in U.S. imports came from energy and crude purchases, which rose by about $1.4 billion. Meanwhile, a 39% surge in soybean exports in March helped drive American exports up 1%.

The rise in soybean exports may be related to a decision by Chinese officials late last year to increase purchases following a productive meeting between President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping in Argentina.

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