U.S. trade deficit shrinks more than expected as imports sink
A cargo ship is seen passing under the Golden Gate Bridge (AFP)

The US international trade deficit shrank sharply in November, led by a drop in imports, government data released Tuesday showed.

The trade shortfall fell to $34.3 billion in November, a decline of 12.9 percent from October, the Commerce Department said.

The decline in the chronic US trade gap in goods and services with the rest of the world was much steeper than expected. The average analyst estimate was for a deficit of $40.4 billion.

The department revised the October figure to $39.3 billion from the prior estimate of $40.6 billion.

November exports rose 0.9 percent to a record $194.9 billion.

Imports fell 1.4 percent to $229.1 billion amid a decline in oil prices.

Imports of crude oil, which represent about 10 percent of total imports, dropped 10.8 percent in November to $21.4 billion.