The U.S. trade deficit hit its highest level in almost nine and a half years in February, the Commerce Department said Thursday.
The trade gap, which measures the difference between the country’s imports and exports, went up 1.6 percent in February to $57.6 billion, slightly more than economists had predicted and the highest it has been since October 2008. It usually grows in times of economic prosperity and has now crept higher for six consecutive months. A year ago it sat at $45.9 billion.
Imports and exports both rose 1.7 percent in February, reaching record highs, in part because of large international and domestic demand and a strong U.S. economy. Exports of American cars and planes to China have risen in recent months, but that could change after the implementation of newly announced Chinese tariffs targeting both products. The tariffs, which cover 106 American-made products amounting to more than $50 billion in yearly exports and could hit aerospace giant Boeing particularly hard, were a response to similar tariffs levied on China by President Trump.
The dueling tariffs have thrown markets into upheaval as fears of a global trade war grow. The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped sharply when the news of the Chinese levies on American products broke.