The US trade deficit widened sharply in December as exports slumped amid a sluggish global economy, government data released Thursday showed.
The deficit rose to $38.7 billion in December, a 12 percent increase from November's upwardly revised $34.6 billion level, the Commerce Department said.
The December increase came in well above the average analyst estimate of $36.0 billion. The prior November estimate was $34.3 billion.
Exports tumbled 1.8 percent in December, to $191.3 billion, and imports edged up 0.3 percent, to $230.0 billion.
The trade report highlights the fragile nature of the global economic recovery, said Tu Packard of Moody's Analytics.
"Foreign demand for US goods does not yet show a firm trend while the US domestic economy is hardly displaying much vigor," Packard said.
The decline in exports in December was entirely due to a fall in exports of goods, led by industrial supplies and materials and capital goods. Services exports increased, reflecting gains in travel, passenger fares and other transportation services.
Imports of both goods and services increased, notably in consumer goods, which hit a record $45.7 billion, and travel services.
For all of 2013, the United States had the smallest deficit since 2009, mainly thanks to a 2.8 percent rise in exports, although slightly lower imports helped.
The 2013 trade deficit was $471.5 billion, a decline of 11.8 percent from 2012.