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Washington (AFP) — The U.S. trade deficit shrank for the third straight month in July helped by gains in exports especially from the automotive sector, Commerce Department data showed Thursday.

The monthly trade balance came in at a negative $40.5 billion, down from a $40.8 billion deficit in June.

Exports rose $1.8 billion to $198.0 billion, while imports gained $1.6 billion to $238.6 billion.

Cars and trucks, parts, and engines were the primary force behind the export gains, up $1.7 billion in the month to $15.3 billion.

Also showing strength were exports of oil products, industrial machinery, and telecommunications equipment, including cellphones.

Meanwhile crude oil imports picked up, while consumer good imports fell.

For the year to July, the trade deficit at $295.3 billion was 4.6 percent larger than a year ago, with exports for the seven month period up 3.1 percent year on year and imports growing 3.4 percent.

Analysts said the improvement in the deficit should give a boost to overall economic growth in the third quarter, if sustained.

AFP Photo/Bill Pugliano

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Trump adviser Jason Miller

Screenshot from Lincoln Project "Deadbeat"/YouTiube

Nobody knows how to take down a Republican hack like another Republican (or former Republican) hack. Which is why we clicked instantly when this Lincoln Project video about Jason Miller popped up on the screen. What, you've never heard of Jason Miller, the Trump campaign spokesman? Most days you can find Miller on TV, spouting vicious nonsense about his betters, like Col. Alexander Vindman or Sen. Kamala Harris.

Of course the Lincoln Project team knows their old colleague Miller well – and what they find amazing is that anyone would employ him, invite him as a guest, or listen to him for more than ten seconds. It's even more amazing that he still opens his loud mouth to criticize anyone else after what he has done and confessed.

But you can decide what to make of Jason Miller after watching "Deadbeat." Warning: It's R-rated and extremely funny.