Much like with surging oil prices, the record book needs frequent updating when it comes to the U.S. trade deficit.

The gulf between imports and exports swelled 4.3% to $61 billion in February, a new all-time high. Higher oil prices contributed to the increase, but the problem has been structural for some time now.

Economists expected the deficit in goods and services to come in at $59 billion, after a revised $58.5 billion shortfall in January. Imports increased $2.58 billion, while exports barely budged. The deficit with OPEC rose to $6.3 billion from $6.1 billion in January.

The data revived concerns about overseas investment in the U.S., as the nation continues, in essence, to export dollars as it sucks in goods and services.

The deficit has hit a record high for the past two years and is headed for another in 2005.

Deficits with the European Union and Japan rose despite the dollar's continued slump, suggesting part of the problem is weak domestic demand in those nations. The trade gap with China, however, declined sharply from $15.3 billion to $13.9 billion, no doubt reflecting the nation's need to import all kinds of raw materials to feed its construction boom.

Bonds and the dollar weakened on the news.