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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.

“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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