On Tuesday the Commerce Department reported that the trade deficit grew to $51.4bn, the highest in six and a half years, and a 43 percent increase over February's gap of $35.9bn. Much of the increase was attributed to the settling of a labor dispute at ports on the West Coast, which allowed a backlog of shipments to be cleared away, but some experts warned that the chronic gap between imports and exports remained an open wound in a generally improving economy.
The flood of imports - which far outpaced American exports - is likely to push economic activity for the first quarter into the negative range when the government issues its revised estimate this month. Last week, the Commerce Department posted an initial estimate of 0.2 percent growth for January, February and March, a feeble showing that was attributed largely to bitterly cold weather.
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