US exports hit record high in July

Cargo container being loaded onto a shop in Boston
Image caption The strong rise in exports will be welcome news to the White House, who wants to help boost jobs

US exports hit a record high in July, pushing the country's trade deficit down to its lowest level in three months, official figures have shown.

Led by strong overseas sales of manufactured goods, US exports rose 3.8% to $178bn (£111bn), said the Commerce Department.

At the same time, imports fell 0.2% to $222.8bn, helped by a fall in the price of oil reducing the cost of the US's crude imports.

The trade gap fell 13.1% to $44.8bn.

The figures will be welcome news for President Barack Obama, who is set to give a speech on job creation later.

Official figures last week showed that no new jobs were created in the US in August, leaving the unemployment rate at 9.1%.

President Obama has previously said that he wants to double US exports by 2014 to help boost employment.

'Keeping momentum'

The rise in exports was led by record shipments to countries in Central and South America.

However, the US's trade gap with China widened 1.1% to $27bn, the largest imbalance since September 2010.

Gary Thayer, economist at Wells Fargo Advisors, said that while the July export figure was strong, how August performed was now key, as it was last month that the global economy started to contract.

However, Pierre Ellis, senior economist at Decision Economics, was more upbeat.

"There's enough strength abroad going into this apparent slowdown to keep the momentum going," Mr Ellis said.

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