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Exports narrowed trade deficit in July

WASHINGTON -- A record level of exports and a drop in oil prices narrowed the U.S. trade deficit in July to its lowest point in three months.

The trade deficit fell to $44.8 billion in July, down 13.1 percent from June, the Commerce Department reported Thursday.

American manufacturers sold more cars, airplanes and industrial machinery in foreign markets. Exports rose 3.6 percent to a record $178 billion.

Imports dipped 0.2 percent to $222.8 billion. Most of the decline came from a drop in oil imports. Oil imports fell 6 percent to $35.5 billion, mostly because oil prices fell.

The overall economy grew at a meager 0.7 percent in the first six months of this year, the slowest growth since the recession ended two years ago. The economy added no net jobs in August, the weakest month for hiring since September 2010.

Economists predict a modest rebound to around 2 percent growth in the second half of this year. Some of that strength is expected to come from stronger export sales.

Combined news services

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