U.S. trade deficit falls for 1st time in 6 years

WASHINGTON — The U.S. trade deficit fell for the first time in six years in 2019 as President Donald Trump hammered China with import taxes.

The Commerce Department said Wednesday that the gap between what the United States sells and what it buys abroad fell 1.7% last year to $616.8 billion. U.S. exports fell 0.1% to $2.5 trillion. But imports fell more, slipping 0.4% to $3.1 trillion. Imports of crude oil plunged 19.3% to $126.6 billion.

The deficit in the trade of goods with China narrowed last year by 17.6% to $345.6 billion. Trump has imposed tariffs on $360 billion worth of Chinese imports in a battle over Beijing’s aggressive drive to challenge American technological dominance.

The trade gap with Mexico rose 26.2% last year to a record $101.8 billion. The goods deficit with the European Union also hit a record, $177.9 billion — up 5.5% from 2018.

Overall, the United States posted an $866 billion deficit in the trade of goods such as cars and appliances, down from $887.3 billion in 2018. But it ran a $249.2 billion surplus in the trade of services such as tourism and banking, down from $260 billion in 2018.

Report: U.S. firms add 291,000 jobs

WASHINGTON — U.S. companies added 291,000 jobs in January, a big increase from December, but much of that strength likely reflected unusually warm weather during the month.

Payroll processor ADP said Wednesday that the January job gain, which was larger than had been expected, compared to a revised December figure of 193,000.

The Labor Department will release its January jobs report on Friday.

Services companies pick up the pace

WASHINGTON — U.S. services companies grew at a slightly faster pace in January than the previous month, an indicator of continued steady expansion of the economy.

The Institute for Supply Management said Wednesday that its service-sector index edged up to 55.5 from 55 in December. Any reading above 50 signals an expansion. The index covers retail, health care, hotels and restaurants, and professional services, among other sectors.

Services companies added jobs at a slower pace last month than in December, while sales increased. Steady consumer spending, buttressed by a strong job market and decent pay gains, is driving a healthy service sector and broader economy.

GM reports profit, but 17% below prior year

DETROIT — Despite a 40-day strike by factory workers and slumping sales in the U.S. and China, General Motors still made money last year.

The company posted a $6.58 billion profit for the year, but that was down almost 17% from 2018.

Revenue for the quarter was $30.8 billion, down almost 20% from a year ago.

The company still made $8.2 billion in North America for the full year, so about 44,000 U.S. factory workers will get $8,000 profit-sharing checks this month. That’s down from $10,750 in 2018.

Barnes & Noble

withdraws book covers

NEW YORK — Barnes & Noble is withdrawing a planned line of famous literature reissued with multicultural cover images that has been met with widespread criticism on social media.

“Diverse Editions,” featured 12 texts, including Lewis Carroll’s “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland,” and L. Frank Baum’s “The Wizard of Oz.” The major characters are depicted with dark-skinned illustrations.

The Associated Press