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US stocks lost ground after the country's trade deficit widened in December and the shortfall with China worsened, despite US President Donald Trump's tariffs.

The Commerce Department said the December trade deficit of $59.8 billion was also the largest since October 2008.

President Donald Trump is pursuing a protectionist trade agenda to shield US manufacturing from what he says is unfair foreign competition.

The White House also slapped Mexico, Canada, the EU, Russia, China, India, Japan, and Turkey with additional tariffs on steel and aluminum exports.

He said there would either be "a good deal or it's not going to be a deal, but I think they're moving along very nicely". While stock futures registered small gains in the hours after the news, US equities have been down in the three days since. Which could mean a boost to auto and auto-parts imports, which would contribute to. you guessed it. a wider trade deficit.

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The total U.S. goods deficit surged 10.4% to $891.3bn, the highest level recorded.

As historical data shows, trade deficits usually jump following tax cuts, like the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts under President George W. Bush, and President Ronald Reagan's cuts in the early 1980s.

A BofA Merrill Lynch Global Research report in 2018 also expects the share of the trade deficit in GDP to grow 0.2 percentage points by 2020.

The tax cuts may also contribute to the jump in trade deficit.

In other words, the 10 percent was not a tariff created to reduce the trade deficit. Trump is trying to reach a new trade deal with China and hopes to strike an agreement with President Xi Jinping in the coming weeks, but the stakes could not be higher. Economists disagree about whether or not such a deficit is good or bad, since more importing could be an indicator of a healthy economy and consumers with more disposable income.

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The overall trade deficit has grown by $119 billion in the two years since Trump took office.

This is the third consecutive year of increasing trade deficits, topping the previous record in 2006. The real, trade-weighted value of the USA dollar increased 21.8 percent between December 2013 and December 2018, and including 6.7 percent in 2018 alone, as shown below. They and other Democrats should stop mimicking Trump's economic silliness, pledge to end trade wars, vow to open up markets and then outline a generous and comprehensive package to address workers and regions adversely impacted by trade.

Trump has repeatedly said that our trade deficit is costing us jobs. On the other hand, imports again rose as American consumers continued to patronize foreign-made goods, especially cheaper products from China. Others worry Trump will go soft in demanding that China drop various means of forcing foreign firms to hand over technologies and trade secrets to do business in China.

The trouble is equally severe on both sides of the report as exports in December fell 2.8 percent to $205.1 billion and imports rose 2.4 percent to $264.9 billion.

Tax cuts in the U.S. boosted domestic demand, while the relatively strong dollar and import tariffs weighed on exports.

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"The flaw in how the market thinks is that it's less concerned than it should be about the longer-term outlook for free trade and what it could mean for corporate profitability, and whether the current global trading system is going to work as it has in the future", said Ronald Temple, co-head of multi-asset and head of US equity at Lazard Asset Management.


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