WASHINGTON -- The U.S. trade deficit narrowed in February, driven by a drop in crude oil imports and an increase in American goods and services exported abroad, the Commerce Department said Friday.
With exports rising more than imports, the seasonally adjusted trade deficit was $43 billion in February, down from a revised $44.5 billion the previous month.
The 3.4 percent decline in the trade deficit was below analyst expectations that the deficit would rise slightly to $44.6 billion.
The report was a bit of good economic news among recent disappointing reports. Increased exports could provide a boost to the economy, but the trade data is older than recent figures that indicated a slowdown in growth last month.
The deficit rose sharply in January because of increased imports of crude oil and other petroleum-related products. The pendulum swung back in February when crude oil imports dropped to their lowest level since 1996 as prices increased.
The U.S. imported about 205 million barrels of crude oil, down nearly 56 million barrels from January.
Overall, the U.S. exported $186 billion in goods and services and imported $229 billion. Imports rose only $100 million in February, while exports jumped $1.6 billion.
The nation exported more industrial supplies and materials as well as more automobiles, parts and engines. Exports of capital goods, consumer goods and foods, feeds and beverages all dropped in February.