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WASHINGTON: The US trade deficit in goods narrowed sharply in March as exports surged and imports declined, which augurs well for economic growth in the first quarter.

The goods trade deficit contracted 8.1% last month to $84.6 billion, the Commerce Department said on Wednesday.

Exports of goods increased $4.9 billion to $172.7 billion. They were boosted by industrial supplies, which include crude oil, motor vehicles as well as consumer goods. Food exports fell 4.5%.

Goods imports fell $2.5 billion to $257.3 billion, pulled down by decreases in industrial supplies, capital goods and other goods. Imports of consumer goods rose 2.4%.

The Commerce Department also reported that wholesale inventories edged up 0.1% in March after a similar gain in February. Retail inventories increased 0.7% after rising 0.3% in the prior month.

US trade deficit widens in 2022 to record on strong imports

Excluding motor vehicles, retail inventories rebounded 0.4% after falling 0.1% in February. This component goes into the calculation of gross domestic product.

The report was published ahead of the government’s advance GDP estimate for the first quarter on Thursday.

Trade has contributed to GDP growth for three straight quarters. Inventory investment was the biggest driver of GDP growth in the fourth quarter. According to a Reuters survey of economists, GDP likely increased at a 2.0% annualized rate last quarter. The economy grew at a 2.6% pace in the fourth quarter.

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