U.S. Trade Deficit Hits Lowest Level in 4 Years

Domestic energy production up while foreign imports are down

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Mark Elias / Bloomberg / Getty Images

A top-loader vehicle carries a container through the South Florida Container Terminal yard at the Dante B. Fascell Port of Miami-Dade County, Florida, U.S.

The United States trade deficit, the dollar-value difference between American imports and exports, fell to $34.3 billion in November, the lowest level in four years, the Commerce Department said Tuesday.

The decline in the deficit was due in part to an increase in exports, which are up 17% above their pre-recession peak and roughly 5% since November of 2012. The main driver of an increase in exports has been the recent boom in U.S. energy production, as petroleum exports reached a record high in November. Energy was also the driving factor behind a decline in imports, as petroleum purchases from abroad dipped to their lowest level since 201o.

Export growth has been a main goal of the Obama administration, as he set out an ambitious goal of doubling U.S. exports between 2010 and 2014 to $3.2 trillion. Though it looks unlikely that that goal will be reached, export growth has been outpacing overall growth of the economy.