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Trade gap widens more than expected in January

Trucks drive on a street at Port Elizabeth in New Jersey February 28, 2013. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz
Trucks drive on a street at Port Elizabeth in New Jersey February 28, 2013. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Trade deficit in January widened more than expected as fuel oil exports slumped and crude oil imports rose, a government report showed on Thursday.

The monthly trade gap totaled $44.4 billion, higher than a consensus estimate of $42.6 billion from analysts surveyed before the Commerce Department report.

The department also lowered its estimate of the December trade gap to $38.1 billion, from $38.5 billion previously.

The $6.3 billion month-to-month rise in the deficit was the largest since March. Exports fell 1.2 percent to $184.5 billion and imports rose 1.8 percent to $228.9 billion.

The drop in exports was led by industrial supplies and materials. Fuel oil exports tumbled by a third and non-monetary gold exports tumbled about 14 percent.

Meanwhile, exports of cars, capital goods, consumer goods, and food, feeds and beverages showed slight gains.

Imports of crude oil and other petroleum products shot higher as the average price for imported oil fell to $94.08 per barrel, the lowest since July, from $95.16 in December.

Increased volume pushed the total petroleum import bill to $31.7 billion, up more than $4 billion.

Imports of drilling equipment, telecommunications equipment and other capital goods grew in January, while imports of consumer goods and cars fell.

The U.S. trade deficit with China widened to $27.8 billion in January, potentially signaling another record annual deficit in 2013 after hitting $315 billion in 2012.

(Reporting By Doug Palmer; Editing by Andrea Ricci)

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