AMERICA’S trade deficit widened unexpectedly in April to a record US$48.3 billion (£26.7bn), as strong consumer demand and the highest oil prices in 21 years pushed imports to unprecedented levels. The monthly trade gap was well above Wall Street forecasts of $45bn (£24.8bn).

Imports edged slightly higher to $142.3bn (£78.5bn) from the previous record set in March, while exports tumbled 1.5 per cent to $93.9bn (£51.8bn). The US goods trade deficit with China jumped nearly 15 per cent to $12bn (£6.6bn).

Separately, the US government released data showing American retail sales rebounded in May. Sales at the nation’s retailers grew by 1.2 per cent, reversing the 0.6 per cent decline suffered in April.