Photo: Shipping containers at the Port of Los Angeles Shipping containers sit stacked in the APM shipping terminal at the Port of Los Angeles on May 7, 2019. Photographer: Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg

The U.S. merchandise-trade deficit narrowed in August to the smallest since October 2021 as both imports and exports dropped, suggesting a tailwind for economic growth in the third quarter.

The shortfall shrank 3.2 percent, to $87.3 billion last month, Commerce Department data showed Wednesday. The figures, which aren’t adjusted for inflation, compared with a median estimate for a gap of $89 billion in a Bloomberg survey of economists.

Exports declined 0.9 percent, to $179.8 billion, the first drop since January. Imports retreated for the fifth straight month, to $267.1 billion.

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