A Silver (Trade) Lining on the (Economic) Cloud

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It may be little comfort to our friends in the US, but the latest trade data, reported by Bloomberg, shows that :

    “The U.S. trade deficit narrowed in November by the most in 12 years as tumbling oil prices and slumping consumer spending cut imports.

    The gap shrank 29 percent, more than forecast, to $40.4 billion, the Commerce Department said today in Washington. A record 12 percent drop in imports propelled the improvement. Exports fell for a fourth straight month.

    The drop in imports is unlikely to ease pressure on President-elect Barack Obama to take a harder line against countries such as China that U.S. steel and textile makers say unfairly benefit from an undervalued currency. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke today warned that a fiscal stimulus won’t be enough to spur an economic recovery.

    …Imports fell to $183.2 billion, as demand for foreign crude oil, automobiles, computers and televisions sagged, reflecting the deepening slump in consumer and business spending.

    …Imports from China also declined by the most on record, narrowing the politically sensitive trade deficit to $23.1 billion.

    U.S. companies are likely to continue to press Obama to make good on campaign pledges to force China to raise the value of its currency, making that country’s goods more expensive to overseas buyers. Textile, steel and other U.S.-based manufacturers are among those asking for the imposition of limits on Chinese imports.

    …Obama is less likely to acquiesce to such requests during times of economic stress, said Catherine Mann, an economics professor at Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts, and a former Fed economist.

    …China’s economy will expand 7.5 percent this year, the slowest pace in almost two decades, according to a forecast from the World Bank. The lender also projects international trade will shrink this year for the first time in more than a quarter century.”

Perhaps a new deal on dual use technology will help the US further. It has certainly been a long time coming!

And from the Chiunese side, export growth is continuing to slow. MarketWatch notes that:

    “China’s export growth likely contracted 2.8% in December from a year earlier, its sharpest pace of contraction since 1999. The figures were cited in a J.P. Morgan research note Tuesday which attributed the data to mainland China media reports. The decline follows a 2.2% contraction in November. “The difficulty of obtaining trade finance in the closing months of 2008 may have had a further exacerbating effect on the headline number,” wrote Jing Ulrich, J.P. Morgan’s chairwoman of China equities. Ulrich said China’s export growth will likely be flat this year when compared to 2008, although early months of the year will see trade contract.”

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