Trump’s favorite scorecard in the US-China trade war just took a major hit

US President Donald Trump and China's President Xi Jinping (not shown) make a joint statement at the Great Hall of the People on November 9, 2017 in Beijing, China. Trump is on a 10-day trip to Asia.

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US President Donald Trump and China’s President Xi Jinping (not shown) make a joint statement at the Great Hall of the People on November 9, 2017 in Beijing, China. Trump is on a 10-day trip to Asia.
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Thomas Peter-Pool/Getty Images

  • The gap between all American products shipped abroad and goods the US imported rose sharply in May, including with China.

  • At $55.5 billion, the trade deficit rose to its highest level in five months.

  • The reading came after trade talks between Washington and Beijing broke down in early May, leading Trump to increase tariffs on China and threaten to target nearly all of its exports to the US.
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The gap between all American products shipped abroad and goods the US imported rose sharply in May, including with China, bringing it to its highest level in five months.

The Commerce Department said Wednesday the trade deficit jumped by more than 8% to a seasonally adjusted $55.5 billion in May, its highest level since December. The balance for April was revised higher to $51.2 billion from original estimates of $50.8 billion.

The trade deficit with China surged more than 12% to $30.2 billion in May amid an ongoing trade dispute that has led each side to levy steep tariffs on thousands of products. That could irritate President Donald Trump, who views the trade balance as a scorecard of sorts against China.

The reading came after trade talks between Washington and Beijing broke down in early May, leading Trump to increase tariffs on China and threaten to target nearly all of its exports to the US. Negotiations have since restarted, but tariffs remain on roughly $360 billion worth of products shipped between the two sides.

In May, imports of goods to the US increased about 4% to $217 billion, while exports climbed nearly 3% to $140.8 billion.

The trade balance is driven by a host of factors, including foreign-exchange rates, the strength of an economy, and the amount a country borrows from abroad.

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