In April, the US trade balance showed an unexpected narrowing in the deficit. The trade deficit narrowed from a downwardly revised $46.8 billion to $43.7 billion, while a widening to $48.8 billion was expected. The details show that imports fell by 0.4%, while exports rose by 1.3%. Remarkable was the narrowing trade deficit with Japan, confirming that supply disruptions slowed imports from Japan. Excluding petroleum, the trade deficit widened from $16.58 billion to $17.60 billion. The narrowing trade deficit is a positive sign for Q2 GDP, but it might only be a temporary phe-nomenon as it is for a significant part due to supply disruptions in Japan, which will at some point be reversed.
In the week ended June the 4th, US initial jobless claims continued to surprise on the upside of expectations. Initial claims rose by 1 000 from an upwardly revised 426 000 to 427 000, while a drop to 419 000 was expected. The less volatile four week moving average, on the contrary, dropped, from 426 750 to 424 000. Initial claims are now above the 400 000-level for the ninth straight week, partly due to bad weather conditions and supply disruptions. The four-week moving average dropped, suggesting that levels are coming down, we doubt however whether the claims will soon fall back below the 400 000 level as all available evidence indicates that growth is slowing down somewhat recently. Continuing claims, which are reported with an extra week lag, came out below expectations. In the week ended May the 28th, US continuing claims fell from an upwardly adjusted 3 747 000 to 3 676 000, while the consensus was looking for only a marginal decline to 3 700 000. The Labour Department added that there were no special factors behind the data.