The U.S. trade deficit fell in October to its lowest level in nine months, according to a report released Friday by the U.S. Commerce Department. The deficit narrowed to $38.7 billion, 13.2 percent below September's $44.6 billion.

U.S. exports increased by $4.9 billion to $158.7 billion, their highest level since August 2008, fueled in large part by demand for industrial supplies and materials, with Mexico and China importing record amounts of U.S. goods.

With decreased U.S. demand for crude oil in October, imports dipped .5 percent to $197.4 billion.

"Overall this is good news," said Spencer Ross, president of the National Institute for World Trade, a not-for-profit consulting organization in Cold Spring Harbor. "Hopefully, it would translate into more jobs" for the Long Island area. Still, he said, on a national level "jobs haven't increased in proportion to the increase in exports because most companies are being more conservative today about hiring."

"It's a step in the right direction . . . one of a number of mildly positive indicators pointing to a bit of a recovery," said Michael Driscoll, visiting professor and senior executive-in-residence at Adelphi University's School in Garden City. "Still, it's a big whopper of a deficit," one that's been around a long time, he said.

Friday's trade figures "are another sign that we're moving in the right direction," Commerce Secretary Gary Locke said in a statement. Furthermore, a "pending trade deal with [South] Korea will build on the momentum we're seeing."

As of last month U.S. merchandise exports to South Korea had grown by 39 percent from October 2009, he said, making South Korea the third largest growth market for companies in the United States.

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