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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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