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November trade deficit surprise: It went down

The U.S. trade deficit narrowed for a fourth-straight month in November, government data showed Thursday, confounding economists who had expected an increase.

The nation's trade deficit contracted 0.3 percent to $38.3 billion from a revised $38.4 billion in October, the Commerce Department said, making it the smallest trade gap since January 2010.

Analysts surveyed by MarketWatch had expected the deficit to widen to $40.3 billion.

The trade deficit shrank 13.9 percent in October. Both exports and imports rose in November, but exports expanded at a slightly faster pace.

U.S. exports are rising because of faster growth in emerging markets and the decline in the dollar's value in foreign-exchange trading late last summer, economists said.

The trade gap with China was little changed at $25.6 billion, as U.S. demand for their goods also climbed. Growing American purchases of computers made in China helped widen the U.S. deficit in advanced technological products to the highest level on record.

Meanwhile, a separate report showed that food and energy costs were rising briskly at the wholesale level as 2010 drew to a close.

U.S. producer prices climbed 1.1 percent in December after a 0.8 percent rise in November, the Labor Department reported. Inflation excluding food and energy, however, rose just 0.2 percent, in line with forecasts. Combined news services

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