Coronavirus: US exports fall in March by most since 2008 crisis

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US merchandise exports slumped in March by the most since 2008 as the coronavirus pandemic shut down economies across the world.

Goods exports fell 6.7 percent from the prior month, led by plunges in auto shipments and industrial supplies such as oil, according to Commerce Department data released Tuesday. Imports fell by 2.4 percent on autos and consumer goods. That widened the goods-trade deficit to $64.2 billion from $59.9 billion the prior month.

The median forecast in a Bloomberg survey called for a $55 billion deficit.

The report also showed retail inventories rose 0.9 percent from the prior month, reflecting unsold motor vehicles and parts. Wholesale inventories dropped 1 percent on a decline in nondurable goods, potentially reflecting consumers stocking up on food and other groceries.

Analysts typically look to these numbers to adjust estimates for economic growth during the quarter. Such adjustments might take a backseat at the moment to the bigger story of coronavirus lockdowns likely ending the record-long US expansion in the first quarter and delivering a historic contraction in the second quarter.

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