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U.S. Key Economic Indicators
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International Trade

  • Importance (A-F): This release merits a C+.
  • Source: The Census Bureau and the Bureau of Economic Analysis of the Department of Commerce.
  • Release Time: 8:30 ET around the 20th of the month (data for two months prior).
  • Raw Data Available at:  www.census.gov

The trade report is most widely watched for trends in the overall trade balance. But trends in both exports and imports of goods and services bear watching as well. The export data in particular are important to watch for indications that a strengthening competitive position at home and/or strengthening economies overseas are boosting U.S. growth. Imports provide an indication of domestic demand, but given the severe lag of this report relative to other consumption indicators, it is not particularly valuable for this purpose.

The volatility in the monthly trade balance can play an important role in GDP forecasts. Net exports are a relatively volatile component of GDP, and the trade report provides the only early clues to the net export performance each quarter.

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