WASHINGTON -- The United States foreign trade deficit in July rose to $5.9 billion, the highest monthly level since January, the Commerce Department reported yesterday.
The increased deficit reflected higher imports of a wide range of goods, mainly consumer products and capital equipment.
Economists attributed the rise to a recent pickup, however modest, in the U.S. economy and a restocking of inventories for the fall season.
While imports in July rose 6 percent from June, growing to $41.1 billion, adjusted for seasonal factors, exports increased by less than 1 percent to $35.2 billion. That was still nearly a record.
Since April, exports have been flat, apparently because of generally slow economic growth abroad.
The United States seems headed for a merchandise trade deficit this year in the $60 billion to $65 billion range, compared with last year's $101.7 billion deficit.
Even if the United States chalks up $5.9 billion monthly deficits the rest of the year, the 1991 deficit would be only $65.4 billion, noted Commerce Secretary Robert A. Mosbacher Sr..
C. Fred Bergsten, director of the Institute for International
Economics, said a deficit of that size is "hardly a big problem."
The deficit, he noted, has improved "enormously" over the last four years. It now equates to about 1 percent of the gross national product, compared with roughly 4 percent in 1986-1987.
The largest import increase in July was in consumer goods, despite relatively soft retail sales. The biggest increase was in clothing imports.