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Numbers to Lose Sleep By

Want more evidence that we should be worrying about American competitiveness? Check out the monthly trade data for August, released this morning by the Commerce Department–and sending some analysts scurrying to revise (downward) their estimates for third-quarter economic growth.

The monthly trade deficit jumped to $69.9 billion from July’s $68 billion. In itself, that’s not so surprising, given that the price of oil didn’t really start dropping till September. What’s more startling is that the volume of imported oil also rose. More broadly, imports were up 2.4%, exports up 2.3%. On average, analysts had predicted a deficit of $66.5 million.

More troubling is the U.S. trade deficit with China, which leaped 12.2% to a monthly high of $22 billion–indicating a deficit for the year that will top last year’s record $202 billion.

So, whatever–it’s just one month, and September’s data will be helped by the drop in oil. Still, that China data. “It’s a pretty bad number,” said one analyst. Hmmm.

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