Recent improvements in oil trade balance soften US trade deficit – Today in Energy



July 21, 2014

Source: United States Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) Balance of Payments Adjustments to Census of Foreign Trade Data
To note: Petroleum and products include crude oil, fuel oil, other petroleum products, natural gas liquids, and manufactured gas. The February 2014 articles used monthly census payment data that did not include BEA adjustments.

Since the mid-1970s, the United States has experienced a merchandise trade deficit, which means that payments for imports have exceeded receipts for exports. This large and growing merchandise trade deficit peaked at $ 883 billion in the second quarter of 2008.

Following the recession, dramatic declines in imports greater than exports in the fourth quarter of 2008 and the first quarter of 2009 reduced the merchandise trade deficit by 49% to $ 449 billion in the second quarter of 2009 This downward trend in imports resulted in the lowest level of quarterly deficit since the start of 2002. The merchandise trade deficit then increased to $ 686 billion in the fourth quarter of 2013, much of the difference from 2008 level ($ 131 billion) due to a $ 158 billion increase in net exports. crude oil and petroleum products.

Crude oil and petroleum products play an important role in the United States‘ balance of trade accounts, and the value of oil trade is sensitive to both price and volume changes. The United States has historically imported more oil and petroleum products than it has exported. The deficit peaked at $ 452 billion in the third quarter of 2008, due to a sharp rise in prices. In the first quarter of 2009, the oil trade deficit improved to $ 174 billion as energy prices and domestic demand fell and US production increased. From the first quarter of 2009 to the second quarter of 2011, the deficit widened to $ 346 billion, due to the continued economic recovery in the United States and higher crude oil prices. Since then, prices have remained high as exports of petroleum products have increased while imports of crude oil have declined. In the fourth quarter of 2013, the deficit was $ 203 billion.

Trade in petroleum and petroleum products contributes to the overall United States goods deficit, but this deficit would exist even if the United States did not import oil. The chart below shows the effects of oil imports and exports on the goods trade deficit. Since 2009, exports of petroleum and petroleum products have played an increasing role in reducing the overall merchandise trade deficit. Although there have been recent increases in crude oil exports, almost all oil exports up to 2013 were of refined petroleum products.

graph of the effects of oil imports and exports on the total merchandise trade deficit of the United States, as explained in the text of the article

Source: U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) Balance of Payments Adjustments to Census of Trade Data

Main contributors: Russell Tarver, Rob McManmon



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