Trade Deficit Narrowed in Fourth Quarter

THE US merchandise trade balance posted a deficit of $28.9 billion during the fourth quarter of 1990, compared with a third-quarter deficit of $29.8 billion, the Commerce Department said Tuesday. Both exports and imports were at record levels during the quarter, the government said. Exports increased 4 percent, or $4.3 billion, to $100.5 billion.

In constant 1982 dollars, the trade deficit decreased $7.9 billion to $19.7 billion, the lowest quarterly deficit since the second quarter of 1983.

For the year, the merchandise trade deficit, on a balance-of-payments basis, narrowed to $108.7 billion, the lowest annual deficit since 1983. Exports rose 8 percent during the year to $389.3 billion while imports gained 5 percent to $498 billion.

In constant 1982 dollars, the deficit decreased $15.5 billion last year to $97.8 billion.

The deficit with Japan decreased by $7.8 billion last year to $41.9 billion and the deficit with the newly industrialized countries of the Far East narrowed by $4.1 billion to $21.1 billion.

The annual trade deficit with Japan narrowed by $400 million to $9.4 billion. The balance with Western Europe shifted by $6.1 billion to a surplus of $2.1 billion, the first surplus since 1982.

The deficit with the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries widened by $7.3 billion to $24.9 billion, the highest level in 10 years.

Petroleum imports rose 22 percent, or $11.2 billion, to $62.1 billion, the highest level in 10 years. The average price per barrel rose to $20.55 last year from $17.06 the year before and the average number of barrels imported daily rose to 8.28 million, the highest level since 1979.

Non-petroleum imports rose 3 percent, or $11.4 billion, to $435.9 billion. Imports of automobiles from US plants in Canada and Mexico offset decreases from Asia.

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