The records keep falling on the trade front, but they're the kind the government would rather not have on the books.

The current account deficit surged to a record $144.9 billion in the first quarter, 14% higher than the revised $127 billion shortfall in the final quarter of 2003, the Commerce Department said Friday. The showing was worse than economists expected and provided another reminder that the U.S. economy is out of balance.

The current account deficit also hit a record high in 2003.

Traditionally, the trade gap shrinks when the dollar is weak -- as it has been for much of the past two years -- but weak demand from European countries, whose economies are experiencing a subpar recovery, has slowed export growth.

In addition, the rising price of oil has inflated the value of imports.

Nevertheless, the U.S. continues to import far more than it exports, which economists consider detrimental to long-term growth.

The current account is the broadest measure of trade, reflecting the flow of goods, services and capital.