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US trade deficit widens as exports slow

One economist says Hurricane Sandy was a big factor in an increased trade deficit for October.

Elaine Thompson/Associated Press

One economist says Hurricane Sandy was a big factor in an increased trade deficit for October.

WASHINGTON — The US trade deficit increased in October as exports fell by a larger margin than imports, a sign that slower global growth could weigh on the US economy.

On Tuesday, the Commerce Department said the deficit grew 4.8 percent in October from September, to $42.2 billion.

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Exports dropped 3.6 percent to $180.5 billion. Sales of commercial aircraft, autos, and farm products all declined. Imports fell 2.1 percent to $222.8 billion, reflecting fewer shipments of cellphones, autos, and machinery.

The trade gap with China also increased to a record high, which will keep pressure on the Obama administration. Manufacturers and US lawmakers complain China’s trade practices are unfair.

Paul Dales, senior US economist at Capital Economics, said the decline in exports and imports probably reflected some disruptions from Hurricane Sandy, which closed ports in the Northeast for the last few days of October.

‘‘The bigger issue is that the weak global economy has been taking its toll on exports,’’ Dales said, predicting that trade would drag slightly on overall US growth in 2013.

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