The U.S. current account deficit jumped to a record high in the first quarter amid a surge in imports of goods as businesses replenished inventories to meet strong domestic demand.
The Commerce Department said on Thursday that the current account deficit, which measures the flow of goods, services and investments into and out of the country, accelerated 29.6% to an all-time high of $291.4 billion last quarter. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast a $273.5 billion deficit.
The current account gap represented 4.8% of gross domestic product. That was the largest share since the third quarter of 2008 and was up from 3.7% in the October-December quarter. The deficit peaked at 6.3% of GDP in the fourth quarter of 2005.
The United States is now a net exporter of crude oil and fuel. Given the dollar's status as the world's reserve currency, the huge shortfall is not an issue for the United States.
Imports of goods increased $71.1 billion to a record $829.7 billion, reflecting broad gains in consumer goods, industrial supplies and materials as well as capital goods. Exports of goods rose $13.9 billion to $487.4 billion, also a record high. They were boosted by shipments of industrial supplies and materials, mostly petroleum and products.
A record trade deficit helped to sink gross domestic product in the first quarter, which fell at a 1.5% annualized rate.
Primary income receipts increased $7.1 billion to $278.6 billion, and payments of primary income rose $10.7 billion to $245.2 billion. The increases largely reflected a rise in portfolio investment income, primarily equity securities and interest on long-term debt securities.
Secondary income receipts gained $0.5 billion to $43.6 billion, driven by an increase in general government transfers, mostly taxes on income and wealth. Payments of secondary income rose $4.7 billion to $84.7 billion, reflecting increases in general government transfers, largely international cooperation, and in private transfers, mostly insurance-related transfers.
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