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News Summary: US August trade deficit up to $44.2B

WIDER TRADE GAP: The U.S. trade deficit widened to $44.2 billion in August, up 4.1 percent from July and the biggest gap since May, as exports fell to the lowest level in six months.

THE DETAILS: Exports dropped 1 percent to $181.3 billion, according to the Commerce Department. Demand for American-made cars and farm goods declined. Imports edged down a slight 0.1 percent to $225.5 billion as purchases of foreign-made autos, aircraft and heavy machinery fell. The cost of oil imports rose sharply.

THE TAKEAWAY: A wider trade deficit acts as a drag on growth because it means the U.S. is earning less on overseas sales of American-produced goods while spending more on foreign products.