Changes in crude oil and petroleum products trade account for most of the recent narrowing of the total U.S. trade deficit. Monthly trade data show the value of crude and petroleum products net imports was roughly equal to the value of electronics net imports in November 2013, and close to the value of net imports of both machinery and vehicles and parts. The monthly oil and petroleum trade deficit had significantly exceeded that of other major commodity categories since it broke away from vehicles and parts in 2004.
These four commodity groupings comprise about 82% of total net imports for 2013 and represent the four largest categories for both imports and exports last year.
Crude oil was the largest single U.S. import by value among all goods in 2013, as it has been for many years.
The data discussed above are for selected Census product groupings. Another way to consider trade data focuses on end-use categories. Using this approach, capital goods is the largest absolute trade category, with imports exceeding exports by a small margin. The large net import balances are found with consumer goods (including electronics), energy fuels, and the automotive sector. Industrial equipment and agriculture have substantial trade that result in positive export balances.