The good news is that the Bureau of Economic Analysis reported yesterday that the US trade deficit decreased month-on-month from $49.8B to $42.8B in July. While monthly figures are intrinsically noisy and subject to later revision, we should be grateful for any shaft of sunlight.
Alas, on closer inspection there is little to be grateful for. First, of the $7B movement, about $4.2 is accounted for by a decline in imports. This would be fine if the US economy were growing, and the drop in imports represented expenditure-switching. The reality, however, is that growth in the US is sputtering at best, and that fewer imports reflect general weakness in spending.
The export side, which is truly critical not only to domestic recovery but also global rebalancing, is even more disappointing. Of the $2.8B increase, fully $2.3B are in civilian aircraft, an especially lumpy category.
All in all, not much to crow about.