WASHINGTON: The United States ended a year that saw a big increase in the trade deficit with a slight but unexpected monthly uptick as imports again outpaced exports, government data said Tuesday.

The deficit increased 1.8 percent to $80.7 billion in December from its upwardly revised level the month before, the Commerce Department said, just under its record high of $80.8 billion posted in September 2021 and against analysts' expectations for a small monthly decline.

The deficit increased nearly $15 billion from 2020, the data said, and is far from the $41.6 billion reported before the pandemic.

"It's unlikely that the trade deficit will significantly unwind its Covid-related expansion until the pandemic is sustainably contained domestically and abroad," Mahir Rasheed of Oxford Economics said.

US goods trade deficit hits record high; retail inventories surge

"However, we expect gradually warming growth and stronger services activity to boost export growth this year while import demand moderates."

Exports rose last month by $3.4 billion, while imports increased by $4.8 billion. Consumer goods exports rose $1.2 billion, most of which were pharmaceutical preparations, while food, feed and beverages declined $1.1 billion.

Transportations and travel exports made up the bulk of the services exports, the data said.

Among imports, consumer goods rose $5.2 billion, cars and parts climbed $2.4 billion, capital goods climbed $2.3 billion and industrial supplies decreased $3.2 billion.

For 2021 in total, the report said exports were up $394.1 billion and imports up by $576.5 billion, with the US goods deficit expanding and the services surplus shrinking.

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