US trade gap rises to $44.4 billlion as virus slams commerce

The U.S. trade deficit rose in March as the coronavirus outbreak battered America’s trade with the world

WASHINGTON —
The U.S. trade deficit rose in March as the coronavirus outbreak battered America’s trade with the world.

The Commerce Department reported Tuesday that the gap between what the United States sells and what it buys abroad widened 11.6% in March to $44.4 billion from $39.8 billion in February. U.S. exports fell 9.6% to $187.7 billion on plunging orders for cars, auto parts and industrial machines. Imports fell 6.2% to $232.2 billion.

Total trade — exports plus imports — came in at $419.9 billion in March, down 7.8% from February and 11.4% from March 2019.

The politically sensitive deficit in the trade of goods with China fell 21.3% to $15.5 billion in March as exports rose slightly and imports plummeted.

The coronavirus and the lockdowns and travel restrictions meant to contain it have hammered the world economy and paralyzed global trade.

In March, the United States ran a $21.2 billion surplus in the trade of services such as tourism and banking. But it registered a $65.6 billion deficit in the trade of goods such as cars and appliances.