Record imports widen US trade deficit
The US trade deficit widened in December to its biggest gap since June.
Figures from the Commerce Department showed that the overall deficit rose by 3.7% to $48.8bn (£31bn), up from a $47.06bn figure for the month earlier.
Imports rose 1.3% to a record $227.56bn, boosted by demand for foreign cars and machinery.
US exports grew slightly, by 0.7%, helped by the weak dollar, with records set for petrol, services and advance technology goods.
The widening of the trade gap was bigger than had been expected.
For the whole of 2011, the US trade gap rose 11.6% to $558.0bn, the highest since 2008.
The economically important deficit with China for the year jumped to a record high $295.5bn.
The latest figures, and the exchange rate that China sets its yuan currency against the dollar, is likely to be discussed at a meeting next week between President Barack Obama and Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping.
Last year, the Senate, controlled by the Democrats, passed legislation to try to force China to raise the value of its currency, but the bill was thwarted by the Republican-controlled House of Representatives.