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COMMERCE

Trade deficit shrinks for 4th straight month

The U.S. trade deficit narrowed in October to its lowest point of the year after Americans bought fewer foreign cars and imported less oil.

The shrinking trade gap boosted growth over the summer and may do so again in the final three months of the year. But economists worry the trend could reverse next year, especially if Europe’s debt crisis worsens.

The Commerce Department said Friday that the trade deficit shrank 1.6 percent to $43.5 billion. It was the fourth straight monthly decline.

Overall imports fell 1 percent to $222.6 billion, which largely reflected a 5 percent decline in oil imports. The average price of imported oil fell for the fifth straight month to the lowest level since March. Oil prices rose last winter because of turmoil in the Middle East and North Africa.

Exports slipped 0.8 percent to $179.2 billion, the first drop after three months of gains. Shipments of industrial supplies, such as natural gas, copper and chemicals, fell. Exports of autos and agricultural goods also dropped.

From wire dispatches and staff reports