The nation continues to look for concrete evidence of rebound, and the latest trade releases have many panning for gold among the numbers.

The U.S. Census Bureau released that wholesale merchant sales totaled $313.1 billion for June 2009, down 21% from June 2008. Nonetheless, it was a modest increase of 0.4% over the May 2009 numbers, while sales of automotive and automotive parts were up 4.5%. Also showing signs of improvement were petroleum and petroleum products, which were up 7.1% from May.

Despite a sluggish domestic economy the last several quarters, the United States has been able to maintain positive growth with gaining momentum in foreign markets. After seeing the smallest trade gap this decade, the U.S. trade deficit widened 4% from $26 billion in May to $27 billion in June, and though both imports and exports increased in June by 2%, imports outpaced exports by $1.1 billion.

In June, exports of goods and services rose to $125.8 billion while imports of goods and services ticked upwards to $152.8 billion.

In total, the goods and services deficit has decreased $33.2 billion from the heights seen in June 2008. A snapback from the rebound of the dollar as the rest of the world has grappled with economic woes is that exports are down a little more than 22% year-over-year, a loss of $35.8 billion. Adding more pressure to foreign markets is the U.S. battle with recession, with imports tanking $69 billion from June 2008, representing a decline of 31%.

For the six month period from January to June, total U.S. exports year-to-date stood at $745.8 billion while total U.S. imports were at $918.8 billion. In 2008, during the same six months, U.S. exports reached $924.4 billion while imports approached $1.3 trillion. Good news for U.S. trade is that imports have declined at a more rapid pace than exports—28.8% compared to 19.3%. This has been aided by the fact that energy prices have bottomed out, and through the first half of 2009, the average price per barrel for crude has tumbled 52%—more than $50 per barrel—compared to the first six months of 2008.

Still, the numbers for the first half of 2009 are down from 2007, when exports for the first six months hit $785.7 billion and total imports year-to-date were $1.14 trillion. Regardless, there is hope that much of the bleeding has now been contained.

From the fourth quarter of 2008 to the first quarter of 2009, exports declined 11.5%. Between the first quarter and second quarter of 2009, exports eased down just 1.3%. At the same time, imports between the fourth quarter of 2008 to the first quarter of 2009 fell 18%, though they are just down 3% between the first and second quarters of this year. This shows that the downturn appears to have slowed.

“While we are seeing signs that the worst part of the recent economic downturn is behind us, we still face challenges to resuscitate domestic manufacturing and expand U.S. exports,” said U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke.

As the United States and China are continuing to try and hammer out trade agreements, they have also been mired in spats over import bans, a major one which received a recent ruling from the World Trade Organization (WTO) today. In the interim, the U.S. trade deficit with its second largest trading partner continues to widen. Exports to China increased by $300 million from May to June to $5.5 billion, but U.S. Chinese imports increased $1.2 billion during the same time period to $24 billion. Year-to-date, China is the third largest market for U.S. goods, representing $30.4 billion in exports. Canada has been by far the U.S.’s principal consumer, importing more than $96 billion in U.S. goods while Mexico is a distant second at $58.6 billion.

On the domestic front, June sales of durable goods were up 0.7% from the month prior, though down nearly 23% from June 2008 totals. Sales of nondurable goods were up a smidgen at 0.1%, but a far cry from last year’s totals, down 19.4%.

Matthew Carr, NACM staff writer. Follow us on Twitter @NACM_National



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