US trade gap rises to $44.4 billlion as virus slams commerce

FILE - In this Nov. 4, 2019  file photo cargo cranes are used to take containers off of a Yang Ming Marine Transport Corporation boat at the Port of T...

FILE - In this Nov. 4, 2019 file photo cargo cranes are used to take containers off of a Yang Ming Marine Transport Corporation boat at the Port of T...

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. trade deficit rose in March as the coronavirus outbreak battered America's trade with the world.

The gap between what the United States sells and what it buys abroad rose 11.6% in March to $44.4 billion from $39.8 billion in February. U.S. exports fell 9.6% to $187.7 billion on plunging orders for cars, auto parts and industrial machines. Imports fell 6.2% to $232.2 billion.

Total trade — exports plus imports — came in at $419.9 billion in March, down 7.8% from February and 11.4% from March 2019.

The politically sensitive deficit in the trade of goods with China fell 21.3% to $15.5 billion in March as exports rose slightly and imports fell.

The coronavirus and the lockdowns and travel restrictions meant to contain it have hammered the world economy and paralyzed global trade.

In March, the United States ran a $21.2 billion surplus in the trade of services such as tourism and banking. But it registered a $65.6 billion deficit in the trade of goods such as cars and appliances.