WASHINGTON – U.S. exports rebounded strongly in September and helped narrow the monthly trade deficit to nearly a two-year low – an encouraging sign for the economy in the face of slowing global growth.
American exports have been one of the stars of the economic recovery but fell in the summer months amid recessions in the eurozone and weaker growth in the Chinese economy. September, however, marked a sharp turnaround: Exports of goods and services surged to a seasonally adjusted $187 billion, a new record high, the Commerce Department said Thursday.
The increase, combined with a smaller 1.5 percent gain in imports, resulted in a drop in the trade deficit from $43.8 billion in August to $41.5 billion. That is the lowest since December 2010.
The jump in September exports -- across a broad range of goods but particularly soybeans and petroleum products -- suggests U.S. economic performance was stronger in the third quarter than the initial government estimate of 2 percent growth in gross domestic product, the broadest measure of economic output.
The strong rebound in exports is an unambiguous positive for near-term growth and also reason for optimism about future prospects, said James Marple, a senior economist at TD Bank.
Other economists were more cautious. Even though economic conditions overseas have improved a touch, said Capital Economics' Paul Dales, a continuation of the weak global backdrop will mean that exports will grow at a slower rate than imports.