Trade Deficit Narrowed Sharply Last Month Due to Coronavirus Disruption

The trade deficit narrowed sharply last month as the flow of goods and services have been disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic.

According to the Commerce Department’s advance estimates released today, the United States trade deficit in goods narrowed 9.1% to $59.9 billion in February. Economists had forecasted a drop to $62.8 billion from the prior month’s $65.9 billion.

Further, the report showed a 0.5% decrease in wholesale inventories to $657.3 billion, while retail inventories were down 0.3% to $657.4 billion.

Over the last few weeks, travel across much of the country has been brought to a virtual standstill in an effort to halt the rapid spread of COVID-19, which originated in China. In the U.S., more than 80,000 cases have been confirmed, with 1,136 deaths.

Last week, President Donald Trump announced that the U.S.-Canadian border would temporarily close to nonessential traffic but suggested that the move would not affect trade between the two countries.

Beyond trade, major events including sporting games, music festivals and other gatherings have been either canceled or postponed, while companies have instructed employees to work remotely when possible. Several states have heightened restrictions, barring restaurants, parks and more public spaces from opening up to customers, except for delivery or takeout in the case of the former. Many retailers across the fashion and footwear industries have also temporarily shuttered all of their U.S.- and Canada-based locations, including Nike, Macy’s and Crocs.

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