The upcoming trade report will reveal the health of the trade balance in March. 


It will also tell if exports and imports continue to increase which will point toward the strength of the consumer economy.


  1. Rising imports


Imports have seen a steady increase since December of last year. A trend that continued into the first couple of months and that some economists attributed to manufacturers underestimating consumer demand. This ultimately resulted in sellers being unprepared and needing to outsource with materials– especially in the automotive and industrial industries which were among the industries with the largest imports. Additionally, more Americans are traveling, seemingly more than their foreign counterparts which some economists believe shows that the U.S. dollar and economy are stronger than other countries.


  1. Rising exports


Much of our trade is not domestic production for export,” says Belinda Roma, an associate professor of economics at St. Mary’s University. Exports increased during the first couple of months of the year after a steady decline in fall 2023. And a major contributor to the increase in exports is foreign tourism. Economists are eager to see if this will continue. Rising esports are seen as a good thing because they speak to the strength of consumer spending, however, there is slight concern where the industries causing the rises are concerned. “This means we are not creating jobs that produce tangibles.” 


  1. Widening of the service surplus 


“The problem with assessing the trade data is that the real meaning is in the detail,” says Roma. “Still, we are seeing an increase in services trade, which I find interesting.” Consumers are prioritizing experience over goods. Some economists attribute this change in spending to the normalization of consumer’s lives (and the world) post-pandemic. 

  1. Change in Trade partners 


February’s report showed that Mexico became the country’s biggest trading partner, passing China in a shocking and historic moment. Economists are particularly interested in if this will continue, especially as the world watches trade dudes unfold with the potential band of Chinese-owned social media company, TikTok and certain sectors advocating for increased tariffs on Asian-made products such as solar panels. “If we see a change in the pattern of trade, then that will be interesting,’ Roma said. 


  1. The Year-to-Year changes in all of the above


The month-to-month numbers can seem daunting, but economists are ultimately satisfied with the direction things are going. While the trade deficit has widened during this narrow time frame, year-to-year it continues to decrease. “I expect to see more of this,” Roma said. Nothing that decreases ultimately affects. 


“The problem with assessing the trade data is that the real meaning is in the detail,” Roma said. Economists are looking past the headlines and immediate numbers and focusing their attention on long-term trends to form their opinion of the health of the economy. “If there is a decline, then we must ask ourselves what might be shifting and why.”