Trade Deficit Record In 2nd Qtr.; Factory Production Higher
Undated (AP) _ The broadest measure of U.S. foreign trade hit a record $34.7 billion deficit during the April-June quarter, confirming projections the nation will have a record annual deficit this year, the Commerce Department said today.
The deficit in the country’s current account, which includes trade in merchandise and services, climbed 2 percent above the $34.0 billion total from January through March, the previous record, the department said.
One reflection of the soaring deficit, weak industrial production, continued last month, according to the Federal Reserve Board. The Fed said production at the nation’s mines, factories and utilities rose a slight 0.1 percent in August, but output remained below its levels of early 1986.
Separately, stock prices moved lower after stabilizing Monday after a record plunge last week. The Dow Jones average of 30 industrials fell 17.85 to 1,749.72 in the first hour of trading.
As recently as 1981, the United States enjoyed a surplus in its current account as earnings on American investments overseas, the services category, were enough to erase perennial merchandise trade deficits.
But, since 1982, the deficits in the current account have steadily mounted, with the result that the country has gone from the largest creditor in the world to the status of a net debtor nation. Simply put, that means foreigners now own more U.S. investments than Americans hold foreign investments.
The industrial production report for August followed a much stronger gain of 0.3 percent in July. It also marked a substantial revision from last month, when the government had reported that industrial output had fallen 0.1 percent in July after declining 0.5 percent in May and 0.3 percent in June.
The report said today that revised data showed stronger activity in those months than earlier believed. Output in May was revised to a 0.4 percent decline with June output now reported as flat.
On Monday, the tremors that shook Wall Street late last week calmed, with stock prices turning mixed in the first session since a two-day record drop.
The Dow Jones average of 30 industrials, down 141.03 points last week, rose 8.86 to 1,767.58 on Monday as trading slowed sharply.
Separately, the government reported Monday that overall business sales posted a 0.7 percent gain in July while inventories rose 0.4 percent, as a backlog of unsold autos climbed higher.
On Wall Street, analysts said some traders were picking up ″bargains″ in the belief that the recent plunge was excessive. Other investors apparently were encouraged by talk that the Federal Reserve Board might soon cut its discount rate, the interest charged on loans to financial institutions.
A discount rate cut is regarded as the most obvious signal the Fed gives to indicate its intention for a broad range of interest rates to fall. Dropping interest rates generally encourage stock prices.
The business sales report issued by the Commerce Department said sales totaled $428.55 billion in July, with the 0.7 percent increase following a 0.9 percent June advance.
At the same time, it said inventories on shelves and in backlots rose to a seasonally adjusted $591.35 billion in July following an identical 0.4 percent advance in June.
The government said the rise in business sales was led by a 1.7 percent increase in sales at the wholesale level. Manufacturers saw sales rise 0.4 percent, while retailers had a modest 0.3 percent increase.
Much of the inventory rise in both June and July came from climbing levels of unsold cars. Auto inventories rose 4.1 percent in July after a huge 17.7 percent jump in June.
This backlog forced automakers to reinstitute attractive cut-rate financing offers in an effort to clear out showrooms before the start of the new model year.
An advance report Friday said retail sales in August climbed 0.8 percent, the best gain since April. It was led by a 3.2 percent jump in auto sales as buyers were lured back by attractive financing incentives.
Domestic automakers reported Monday that new-car sales soared in early September to 36.9 percent above the corresponding period last year, due to the latest round of cut-rate financing offers. The automakers said they sold on average 46,084 cars per day during the Sept. 1-10 period.
Early-September sales by General Motors Corp., Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler Corp totaled 355,847, up 57.6 percent from 225,810 in the corresponding period last year.