US commerce deficit up 1.9% in January on file items imports and extra enterprise information

The trade deficit rose 1.9% in January

The number of goods imported into the US reached unprecedented levels in January, increasing the trade deficit by 1.9% as the coronavirus pandemic continues to distort global trade.

The gap between the goods and services the United States sold and what it bought overseas increased from $ 67 billion in December to $ 68.2 billion, the Department of Commerce reported on Friday. Exports rose 1% to $ 191.9 billion, while imports rose 1.2% to $ 260.2 billion.

Imports of goods without services rose $ 3.4 billion in January to a record $ 221.1 billion, led by pharmaceuticals which rose $ 5 billion, or 39%, to $ 17.4 billion. Imports of services decreased by around 1%.

The number surpassed the record for imported goods set in October 2018 of $ 218.9 billion.

U.S. goods exports rose $ 2.1 billion to $ 135.7 billion in January, while exports of services such as transportation and travel declined $ 0.3 billion to $ 56.3 billion.

The politically sensitive trade gap with China narrowed 3.2% to USD 27.2 billion. The trade deficit with Mexico increased by $ 1.6 billion to $ 11.9 billion in January.

The coronavirus has stimulated trade in services such as education and travel, parts of the economy where the United States has persistent surpluses. In terms of US dollars, monthly exports of US services have declined by nearly a quarter since the virus broke out about a year ago.

Year-over-year, the goods and services deficit rose to $ 23.8 billion, or 53.7%, from January 2020.

Big tech critics appointed to the White House panel

President Joe Biden appointed Tim Wu, a Columbia University law professor, to the National Economic Council as Special Assistant to the President for Technology and Competition Policy on Friday, adding one of the most outspoken critics of the power of big tech to the administration.

The appointment of Wu, 48, widely supported by progressive Democrats and antimonopoly groups, suggests the government plans to take on the size and influence of companies like Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google, including working with Congress on the strengthening of antitrust legislation. During his campaign, Biden said he was open to tech companies breaking up.

Biden also expressed skepticism about social media companies and the legal shield known as Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. He told the New York Times editorial staff in January 2020 that section 230 “should be revoked immediately”.

The tech companies have fought vigorously against new antitrust laws and regulations and built some of the strongest lobbying forces in Washington to push back.

Wu has warned of the consequences of too much power in the hands of some companies.

“Extreme economic concentration leads to gross inequality and material suffering and arouses the appetite for nationalist and extremist leadership,” wrote Wu in his 2018 book “The Curse of Greatness: Antitrust Law in the New Gilded Age”.

Consumer borrowing fell in January

American borrowing fell for the first time in five months in January as credit card use plummeted to its lowest level in four years, which offset gains on auto and student loans.

The Federal Reserve reported Friday that consumer credit fell $ 1.3 billion in January, the first setback since a $ 9 billion decline in August.

The weakness resulted from a $ 9.9 billion decrease in credit card borrowing. It was the fourth straight decline in its category and the largest drop since a $ 10.8 billion decline in August. Credit card activity has been reduced to its lowest level since January 2017.

The auto and student loan category saw an increase of $ 8.6 billion in the first month of 2021, after an even larger increase of $ 11.6 billion in December.

Consumer borrowing is closely monitored for clues as to Americans’ willingness to borrow more to finance their spending, accounting for two-thirds of the US economy.

Since the pandemic a year ago, millions have lost their jobs and households have become more cautious, increasing their savings as a hedge against economic uncertainty.

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