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WASHINGTON: US exports of goods and services climbed to a record in May, helping to push the trade deficit down to its lowest level of the year, the Commerce Department said Thursday.

Led by a jump in sales of oil, natural gas and consumer goods, American exports rose by $3 billion to $255.9 billion, narrowing the trade gap to $85.5 billion, the data showed.

Imports rebounded slightly after the steep decline in April, rising to $255.9 billion.

Companies in recent months have rushed to replenish depleted inventories amid strong demand from American shoppers, and while spending so far has not slowed significantly, sky-high inflation has raised concerns that consumers will put away their wallets.

Multiple export categories set records, including industrial supplies, autos and parts, and petroleum. But imports of oil and autos also hit a new peak.

Services exports rose only slightly but still hit a new all-time high, while services imports also were the highest on record, the report said.

Record trade deficit weighs on U.S. economy in first quarter

However, Mahir Rasheed of Oxford Economics said a slowing global economy is likely to impact the trade picture in coming months.

“The recent moderation in import growth, combined with strong headwinds facing exports given rising fragility in the world economy, suggests domestic and global trade flows will slow further in the months ahead,” he said.

The Federal Reserve is raising interest rates aggressively to dampen demand and cool inflation.

That will “restrain still-solid domestic consumption this year, while exports navigate downside risks as Europe battles high prices, China growth downshifts, and the dollar continues to strengthen,” he said.

The US trade deficit with China declined again, falling $2.8 billion to $32.2 billion in May, on another a big drop in imports from the world’s second largest economy.

For the first five months of 2022, the total trade gap is up 28.4 percent from the same period in 2021, according to the data.

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