A Growing Trade Deficit: February 6 – 10

The trade deficit surged to a new record in 2022. Here are the five things we learned from U.S. economic data released during the week ending February 10.


The trade deficit rose in 2022. The Census Bureau and the Bureau of Economic Analysis report that exports slowed 0.9 percent in December to a seasonally adjusted $250.2 billion and imports jumped 1.3 percent to $317.6 billion. The resulting trade deficit for the month of -$67.4 billion was up 10.5 percent from November. For all of 2022, exports and imports surged 17.7 percent and 16.3 percent, respectively, while the trade deficit swelled 12.2 percent from 2021 to -$948.1 billion. During December, the goods deficit increased by $7.4 billion to -$90.6 billion and the services surplus grew by $1.0 billion to +$23.2 billion. Boosting the former were less exports of industrial supplies (e.g., gold, crude oil) and more imports of consumer goods (e.g., cell phone) and automobiles. 

Consumer confidence improved slightly in early February. The University of Michigan’s Index of Consumer Sentiment added 1.5 points to a seasonally adjusted 66.4 (1966Q1=100). The same measure was at 62.8 one year ago. The current conditions index rose 4.2 points to 72.6 (February 2022: 68.2), while the expectations index inched down 4/10thsof a point to 62.3. The same measures were at 68.2 and 59.4, respectively, a year ago. One-year inflationary expectation grew by 3/10ths of a percentage point to +4.2 percent, with longer-term expectations holding steady at +2.9 percent. 

Consumers took on debt at a slower rate in December. Outstanding consumer credit balances (net of mortgages and other real estate backed debt) grew by $11.6 billion to a seasonally adjusted $4.776 trillion. The Federal Reserve data series grew by $32.1 billion in November and has risen 7.8 percent from a year earlier. Revolving credit balances (i.e., credit cards) grew by $7.2 billion to $1.196 trillion, while that for nonrevolving credit (e.g., cars and college) expanded by $3.3 billion to $3.580 trillion. The two data series have jumped 14.8 percent and 5.6 percent, respectively, over the past year. 

Bankruptcy filings slowed in 2022. The Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts indicates that bankruptcy filings declined 6.3 percent to 387,721. Business filings dropped 6.0 percent to 13,481, while nonbusiness filings decelerated 6.3 percent to 374,240. Chapter 7 and 12 filings all fell, while those for Chapter 11 and 13 bankruptcies rose 1.7 percent (to 4,918) and 30.9 percent (to 157,087), respectively.  

The federal government budget deficit is swelling again. The Department of Treasury reports that the U.S. government collected $447.3 billion in receipts as it spent $486.1 billion in January, resulting a budget deficit for the month of $38.8 billion. Over the first four months of FY2023, the U.S. government collected $1.473 trillion in receipts and spent $1.933 trillion. The resulting fiscal year-to-date budget deficit of -$460.2 billion was 77.7 percent above that of the comparable previous year months. The Department of Treasury currently forecasts FY2023 will have a budget deficit of -$1.300 trillion, 0.9 percent the FY2022 deficit.

Other U.S. economic data released over the past week:

  • Jobless Claims (Week ending February 4, 2023, First-Time Claims, seasonally adjusted): 196,000, +13,000 vs. the previous week, +5,000 vs. the same week a year earlier). 4-week moving average: 189,250 (-12.7% vs. the same week a year earlier). 
  • Senior Loan Officer Opinion Survey

The opinions expressed here are not necessarily those of Kevin’s current employer. No endorsements are implied.

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