The US trade deficit, meaning the gap between the value of imports and exports, widened in January 2013.
The trade deficit grew to $44.45 billion in January from December’s figure of $38.14 billion, the Commerce Department said.
There was better news on unemployment, with a fall in the number of initial claims for unemployment benefits.
The Labor Department said the number of initial claims for state benefits fell 7,000 to 340,000.
The figure had been expected to rise.
The initial claims news will not affect the week’s most important economic news, which is Friday’s non-farm payrolls figure for February, because the weekly claims figures are for the beginning of March.
Much of the rise in imports came from a 12% increase in imports of oil.
The trade deficit for the whole of 2012 was revised down slightly to $539.5 billion, which was 3.6% below the level from 2011.