The trade deficit widened in December, closing out a year in which America's trade gap ballooned by the largest amount in a decade.
The Commerce Department says the deficit in December increased 5.9 percent to $40.6 billion. It grew because a 2.6 percent gain in imports outpaced a 1.8 percent rise in exports.
For all of 2010, the U.S. trade deficit rose to $497.8 billion, a 32.8 percent surge. It was the biggest annual percentage gain since 2000. In 2009, the deficit had fallen to the lowest point in eight years as demand for imports plunged.
Economists believe the deficit will keep widening in 2011 but that U.S. manufacturers will benefit from a weaker dollar, which makes their goods more competitive in foreign markets.