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Published: Friday, 5/11/2012

Trade deficit increases at fastest in 10 months


WASHINGTON -- The U.S. trade deficit rose 14 percent in March from February, the fastest rate in 10 months, the Commerce Department reported Thursday.

Consumer goods pushed imports to a record level, outpacing a solid gain in U.S. exports.

For the year, the trade deficit is running at an annual rate of nearly $600 billion, about 7 percent more than last year's gap.

The Commerce Department said the trade gap widened to $51.8 billion in March from $45.4 billion in February. Imports rose 5.2 percent to a record $238.6 billion, reflecting more foreign oil, autos, cell phones, and apparel.

Exports increased nearly 3 percent to $186.8 billion. Sales to Europe reached an all-time high despite the region's debt crisis.

The deficit with China rose to $21.7 billion from $19.4 billion in February. The deficit with China this year is on pace to exceed last year's $295.5 billion, a record gap with any country.

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