U.S. Trade Gap Above $24B

The U.S. trade deficit widened to $24.4 billion in September even though beleaguered American farmers saw their exports climb to the highest level in 19 months. America's deficits with China and Japan both rose with the shortfall, with China setting an all-time high for any country.

The Commerce Department reported Thursday that the September trade deficit was 3.7 percent higher than a revised $23.5 billion August deficit.

The latest deterioration in trade left the overall deficit running at an annual rate of $255.5 billion this year, a sharp 56 percent above last year's record of $164.3 billion.

For September, exports, which had hit a record in August, edged back a slight 0.9 percent to $81.7 billion, reflecting sharp declines in exports of commercial airliners and autos.

Imports hit a new monthly record, rising 0.1 percent to $106.1 billion as the price of foreign crude oil shot up to the highest level in 31 months.

By Martin Crutsinger