By Paul Kiernan 

WASHINGTON -- Trade between the U.S. and the rest of the world picked up in June, with both exports and imports rising together for the first time in six months as the global economy began climbing out of the recession caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Exports from the U.S. rose 9.4% in June from May to $158.3 billion, the Commerce Department said in a report Wednesday. Imports rose 4.7% to $208.9 billion. The deficit narrowed 7.5% to $50.7 billion.

"While trade flows rebounded in June, they still remained way off from where they were in February," said Shannon Seery, an economist at Wells Fargo. "The flows just declined so dramatically in the prior three months."

Fueling the rise in exports was a 14% jump in outbound shipments of goods, which had cratered in April and May as much of the global economy was closed to contain the spread of Covid-19. Exports of services rose much more slowly at 1%.

U.S. consumer demand picked up in June as parts of the economy reopened. Unemployment fell, and retail sales rose as consumers bought more cars, clothing and electronics.

Those trends were reflected in a 10% rise in imports of consumer goods and a 4.7% increase in imports of capital goods, such as computers and semiconductors, suggesting an upward trend in business investment.

The automotive industry saw both imports and exports more than double in June from May as lockdowns eased and showrooms reopened.

"The industry has been holding up and recovering well," General Motors Chief Financial Officer Dhivya Suryadevara told reporters last week.

A resurgence of coronavirus cases in the U.S. and some other countries suggests that economic growth and trade may falter again. Manufacturing export orders were soft across most of the countries surveyed in July by research firm IHS Markit.

Global trade tumbled in the first half of the year, as the coronavirus pandemic and U.S.-China tensions caused multinationals to reconsider globe-spanning supply chains. The World Trade Organization's economists estimate that trade flows will fall by at least 13% during 2020 as a whole and possibly by much more.

Wednesday's data showed trade in services remained relatively depressed compared with February levels. But most of the drop was due to the sharp decline in international travel as tourists stayed home and business travelers shifted to videoconferencing. U.S. exports of services such as intellectual property, financial services and business services have all declined only modestly since the onset of the pandemic.

Write to Paul Kiernan at


(END) Dow Jones Newswires

August 05, 2020 10:30 ET (14:30 GMT)

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