The US trade deficit edged lower in February after a big jump in January, government data released Friday showed.
The Commerce Department reported the trade gap shrank to $43 billion, down from the revised $44.5 billion in January.
The decline, which came after a large 16.7 percent deficit increase in January, surprised analysts who had projected a deficit of $44.7 billion.
US exports grew 0.8 percent to $186 billion, strengthened by the exports of industrial goods (up 4.5 percent) and automobiles (up 1.6 percent).
Meanwhile, US imports held steady at $228.9 billion.
US imports of crude oil, which represent more than 10 percent of imported goods by the US, dropped 5.6 percent to $23.6 billion.
But US imports of foreign automobiles rose 4.6 percent between January and February to reach $24.8 billion.
On a 12-month basis, the US trade deficit has dropped by 3.5 percent.