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Economy Briefs: U.S. trade deficit falls to $48.7 billion in May

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The U.S. trade deficit narrowed in May from April, helped by cheaper oil that lowered imports and an increase in American exports to Europe and China.

But economists cautioned that the global economy has weakened since then. And they noted that the decline in the deficit wasn't enough to alter their growth forecasts for the April-June quarter.

The Commerce Department said Wednesday that the trade deficit fell 3.8 percent to $48.7 billion in May, down from $50.6 billion in April.

Exports rose 0.2 percent to $183.1 billion. The increase reflected stronger sales of telecommunications equipment and heavy machinery. Exports to the 27-nation European Union rose 2.6 percent in May from April.

Imports dropped 0.7 percent to $231.8 billion.

TECHNOLOGY

Personal computer sales continue to decline in U.S.

SAN FRANCISCO — Personal computer sales sagged during the spring as shifting technology trends, upcoming product releases and a shaky economy dampened demand for the machines currently on the market.

The second-quarter decline in the U.S. ranged from 6 percent to 11 percent, compared with the same time last year, according to separate reports released Wednesday by Gartner Inc. and International Data Corp. Gartner came up with the lower of the two figures in the research firms' quarterly look at shipments of desktop and laptop computers.

Worldwide PC shipments held up better during the quarter, dipping by just 0.1 percent from last year. This marks the seventh consecutive quarter in which global PC shipments have either decreased or edged up only slightly from the previous year, according to Gartner's calculations.

Hewlett-Packard and Dell, the biggest PC makers in the U.S. market, suffered the steepest drops during the three months spanning from April through June.

EUROPE

Euro hits two-year low versus dollar after Fed decision

NEW YORK — The euro plummeted to a two-year low against the dollar Wednesday after minutes from the Federal Reserve's last meeting suggested that policymakers are not considering any immediate plans for more bond purchases to help the economy.

The euro sank as low as $1.2211 after the minutes were released, its lowest point against the dollar since July 1, 2010. By late Wednesday, the euro was trading at $1.2228. It was worth $1.2254 late Tuesday.

According to the minutes, several Fed policymakers said during their June meeting that they would consider more stimulus, but only if the economy worsens. Traders interpreted that to mean that the Fed won't announce any bond buying next month.

The Fed has launched two rounds of bond purchases, most recently in August 2010, to lower long-term interest rates and make stocks more attractive to investors.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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