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Trade Deficit in U.S. Probably Little Changed in October as Exports Rise

By Shobhana Chandra – Dec 5, 2010

The U.S. trade deficit was probably little changed in October, reflecting a rise in exports as the dollar weakened and economies overseas led the global recovery, analysts said before a report this week.

The gap held at $44 billion for a second month, according to the median of 60 estimates in a Bloomberg News survey ahead of Commerce Department figures Dec. 10. Other reports may show consumer confidence climbed this month and the cost of imported goods rose at a slower pace in November.

Importers in China, Brazil and Singapore are among the top 10 buyers of American-made goods this year as their economies grew in excess of 8 percent, almost three times as much as the U.S., benefitting companies like General Dynamics Corp. The gains in exports are offsetting increasing U.S. purchases abroad as the world’s largest economy recovers.

“Exports will rebound because of strong growth overseas and the weaker dollar,” said Zach Pandl, an economist at Nomura Securities International Inc. in New York. “We can expect imports to increase as domestic demand improves. The trade balance is likely to be stable in coming months, which would still be a pretty good outcome during an expansion.”

Along with export-driven growth at factories, the economy is getting help from increases in consumer spending, which may keep rising as Americans gain confidence.

The Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan’s preliminary household sentiment index rose to 72.5 this month, the highest level since June, according to the Bloomberg survey median. The gauge averaged 89 in the five years leading up to the recession that began in December 2007. The report is also due Dec. 10.

Employment Cools

One reason confidence remains below pre-slump levels is the lack of job growth. Payrolls grew by 39,000 in November, less than the most pessimistic forecast of economists surveyed by Bloomberg, Labor Department figures showed on Dec. 3. The jobless rate climbed to 9.8 percent, underscoring the Federal Reserve’s decision to pump more money into the financial system.

The employment report pushed the dollar down to a three- week low versus the yen and lower against many of its most- traded counterparts. Since reaching a one-year high on June 7, the dollar has weakened 5.3 percent against a trade-weighted basket of currencies.

The decline makes American-made goods cheaper to buyers abroad, providing more support to manufacturing, which a report from the Institute for Supply Management last week showed expanded for a 16th consecutive month in November.

Emerging Markets

China, set to become the world’s second-largest economy this year, expanded 9.6 percent in the third quarter from a year earlier. Brazil, South America’s largest economy, grew 8.8 percent in the April through June period from the second quarter of 2009. Singapore’s economy, in the running to be the world’s fastest-growing this year, expanded 10.6 percent in the third quarter from a year ago.

General Dynamics, based in Falls Church, Virginia, last month announced its Gulfstream business-jet making unit would spend $500 million and add 1,000 jobs in Savannah, Georgia, to meet a growing market for large-cabin aircraft. Chief Executive Officer Jay Johnson this month reinforced optimism about overseas demand.

“We continue to experience strong international order activity and interest, particularly in the emerging markets,” he said in a Dec. 2 industry conference presentation.

Shares of manufacturers have increased more this year than the broader indexes. The Standard & Poor’s Supercomposite Industrial Machinery Index has climbed 40 percent through Dec. 3, while the S&P 500 gained 9.8 percent.

Among other reports, Labor Department figures may show prices of goods imported into the U.S. rose 0.8 percent in November after a 0.9 percent gain the prior month, according to the Bloomberg survey median, reflecting higher costs for crude oil and metals due to the weaker dollar.

                        Bloomberg Survey

                        Release    Period    Prior     Median
Indicator                 Date               Value    Forecast
Cons. Credit $ Blns       12/7      Oct.      2.1       -1.0
Initial Claims ,000’s     12/9     4-Dec      436       425
Whlsale Inv. MOM%         12/9      Oct.      1.5%      0.9%
Trade Balance $ Blns     12/10      Oct.     -44.0     -44.0
Import Prices MOM%       12/10      Nov.      0.9%      0.8%
Import Prices YOY%       12/10      Nov.      3.6%      2.9%
U of Mich Conf. Index    12/10     Dec. P     71.6      72.5
Federal Budget $ Blns    12/10      Nov.     -120.3    -132.0

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