) -- The U.S. trade deficit widened unexpectedly in December, as a jump in imports boosted by upticks in oil and autos outpaced a smaller rise in exports.
The trade gap grew to $40.2 billion after registering $36.4 billion in November, according to a Wednesday Commerce Department release. Consensus forecasts provided by Briefing.com showed analysts expected the deficit to narrow to $35.8 billion
Exports increased by $4.6 billion to $142.7 billion in December, reflecting a rise in capital goods and industrial supplies and materials. Imports rose by another $8.4 billion to reach $182.9 billion.
The report noted the trade deficit with China, the largest deficit among the U.S.'s international partners, shrunk to $18.1 billion in December after hitting $20.2 billion in the prior month. China exports rose to a record $8.4 billion during the month.
The department also said the deficit shrank in 2009 to $380.7 billion, down from a deficit of $695.9 billion for 2008.
-- Written by Sung Moss in New York