The U.S. trade deficit widened more than expected in January as a strong dollar and weak global demand helped to push exports to a more than five-and-a-half-year low, suggesting trade will continue to weigh on economic growth in the first quarter. The Commerce Department said on Friday the trade gap increased 2.2 percent to $45.7 billion. December’s trade deficit was revised up to $44.7 billion from the previously reported $43.4 billion. Exports have declined for four straight months.

Economists polled by Reuters had forecast the trade deficit widening to $44.0 billion in January. When adjusted for inflation, the deficit increased to $61.97 billion from $60.09 billion in December. Trade subtracted a quarter of a percentage point from gross domestic product in the fourth quarter, helping to hold down growth to a tepid 1.0 percent annual rate. READ MORE