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Trade Deficit Widens; China Gap Shrinks

WASHINGTON ( TheStreet) -- A bounce in desire for foreign consumer goods and industrial supplies, among other items, fueled import growth in February, which helped grow the U.S. trade deficit during the month.

The trade deficit edged higher to $39.7 billion in February after hitting a revised $37 billion in January, the Commerce Department said in a release Tuesday. According to consensus estimates provided by Briefing.com, Wall Street expected the gap to rise to a lighter $38.5 billion.

Exports climbed at a less brisk pace than imports, but still managed to rise to their best mark since the fall of 2008. Exports rose by $300 million to reach $143.2 billion in February, while imports grew by $3 billion to hit $182.9 billion.

The U.S. trade deficit with China, which remains the largest by far among the nation's international trading partners, also contracted in February to $16.5 billion, not seasonally adjusted. In the month before, the trade deficit stood at $18.3 billion.

Stocks were trading near the flatline in the morning, as the Dow Jones Industrial Average added 4 points to 11,010 and the S&P 500 was falling by 1 point to 1195.

-- Written by Sung Moss in New York

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