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U.S. trade deficit steady in January as exports bounce back

A general view of the Port of Los Angeles, California November 29, 2012. REUTERS/Lori Shepler

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. trade deficit was little changed in January as a rebound in exports matched an increase in imports.

The Commerce Department said on Friday the trade gap was at $39.1 billion from December's revised shortfall of $39.0 billion. December's trade gap was previously reported as being $38.7 billion.

January's trade deficit was in line with economists' expectations.

When adjusted for inflation, the trade gap dipped to $48.5 billion in January from $49.2 billion the prior month.

This measure goes into the calculation of gross domestic product. Trade contributed about one percentage point to the fourth-quarter's annualized 2.4 percent growth pace as exports grew at their fastest pace in three years.

In January, exports increased 0.6 percent to $192.5 billion.

Exports to China tumbled 20.8 percent in January, widening the politically sensitive U.S. trade deficit with the world's second-largest economy.

Imports from that country were up 1.7 percent. Exports to the 27-nation European Union rose 3.1 percent.

Overall imports rose 0.6 percent to $231.6 billion in January, with capital goods surging to a record high.

A moderation in domestic demand and an inventory accumulation by businesses will likely constrain import growth in the first quarter of the year.

(Reporting By Lucia Mutikani; Editing by Paul Simao)