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By the end of this section, you will be able to:

  • Explain merchandise trade balance, current account balance, and unilateral transfers
  • Identify components of the U.S. current account balance
  • Calculate the merchandise trade balance and current account balance using import and export data for a country

A few decades ago, it was common to track the solid or physical items that were transported by planes, trains, and trucks between countries as a way of measuring the balance of trade. This measurement is called the merchandise trade balance    . In most high-income economies, including the United States, goods make up less than half of a country’s total production, while services compose more than half. The last two decades have seen a surge in international trade in services, powered by technological advances in telecommunications and computers that have made it possible to export or import customer services, finance, law, advertising, management consulting, software, construction engineering, and product design. Most global trade still takes the form of goods rather than services, and the merchandise trade balance is still announced by the government and reported prominently in the newspapers. Old habits are hard to break. Economists, however, typically rely on broader measures such as the balance of trade or the current account balance    which includes other international flows of income and foreign aid.

Components of the u.s. current account balance

[link] breaks down the four main components of the U.S. current account balance for the last quarter of 2014 (seasonally adjusted). The first line shows the merchandise trade balance; that is, exports and imports of goods. Because imports exceed exports, the trade balance in the final column is negative, showing a merchandise trade deficit. How this trade information is collected is explained in the following Clear It Up feature.

Components of the u.s. current account balance for 2014 (in billions)
Value of Exports (money flowing into the United States) Value of Imports (money flowing out of the United States) Balance
Goods $410.0 $595.5 –$185.3
Services $180.4 $122.3 $58.1
Income receipts and payments $203.0 $152.4 $50.6
Unilateral transfers $27.3 $64.4 –$37.1
Current account balance $820.7 $934.4 –$113.7

How does the u.s. government collect trade statistics?

Do not confuse the balance of trade (which tracks imports and exports), with the current account balance, which includes not just exports    and imports    , but also income from investment and transfers.

Statistics on the balance of trade are compiled by the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) within the U.S. Department of Commerce , using a variety of different sources. Importers and exporters of merchandise must file monthly documents with the Census Bureau, which provides the basic data for tracking trade. To measure international trade in services—which can happen over a telephone line or computer network without any physical goods being shipped—the BEA carries out a set of surveys. Another set of BEA surveys track investment flows, and there are even specific surveys to collect travel information from U.S. residents visiting Canada and Mexico. For measuring unilateral transfers, the BEA has access to official U.S. government spending on aid, and then also carries out a survey of charitable organizations that make foreign donations.

This information on international flows of goods and capital is then cross-checked against other available data. For example, the Census Bureau also collects data from the shipping industry, which can be used to check the data on trade in goods. All companies involved in international flows of capital—including banks and companies making financial investments like stocks—must file reports, which are ultimately compiled by the U.S. Department of the Treasury. Information on foreign trade can also be cross-checked by looking at data collected by other countries on their foreign trade with the United States, and also at the data collected by various international organizations. Take these data sources, stir carefully, and you have the U.S. balance of trade statistics. Much of the statistics cited in this chapter come from these sources.

Questions & Answers

what is economic
Nana Reply
Economics is the study of how Individual consumer, institution and society as a whole uses its available finite resources to satisfy infinite needs and wants
Richard
what is international trade
BOBO Reply
other things remain constant.
Esale Reply
explain scarcity
Richard Reply
scarcity occurs when there are not enough resources to satisfy human's needs and wants therefore we need to allocate our resources using the price mechanism.
Isha
scarcity is when there is inadequate resources to catch the unlimited wants which would compel individual to make choice.
Prince
scarcity simply means when there's a shortages of resources to satisfy Hunan's need and wants in a particular time, which means the demand for it at the moment is higher than the supply
Abu
scarcity simply means when there's a shortages of resources to satisfy humans need and wants in a particular time, which means the demand for it at the moment is higher than it supply.
Abu
😂😂😂
Isha
That escalated real quick😂
Isha
scarcity is sometimes considered as the basic problems of economics resources r scarce because we live in a world of humans in which wants are infinite but the land labor and capital r required to satisfy those wants are limited
Nkwenti
scarcity means unlimited resources
Rena
joint or complementary demand
Ryt Reply
what is demand
Qudus Reply
it maybe define as the amount or quantity of goods and services which a consumer is willing to buy with the ability to pay at a given price at a particular time
Habib
yesoo thanks dear
Gyamfua
why is economics a science
Isaac Reply
Because science is all about thinking by making models whether a computational or Mathematical. Economics is a social sciences because it effects society but to understand Economics we use maths so it is a Science
Amit
hi
Mony
hello
Amit
I hope.......Economic is social science because it makes new new currency of money,it is decided the country’s depend system and the system be repeated others benefits in our ...
Anik
yeah
Habib
so what is the disadvantages of mix economic system
Habib
Economics is regarded as a social science because it uses scientific methods to build theories that can help explain the behaviour of individuals, groups and organisations.
Ali
The question is: why is Economic a "science" and not why is economics a "social science?" Alright folks?
Xavier
In my own understanding of why economics is a science it bcz it deals mainly on human resources just like biology that deals in the human body why economics is science it also deals on the management of human resources all over the world bcz without economics there will be no human resources
Ogbonnaya
what is technology
Nkwenti
my response to the earlier question is, economics is a science but not a pure science like biology, chemistry and physics. The reason is that those pure science study inanimate object while economics study human being, their experiment are predictable.
raimi
Economics is a social science subject that shows the relationship between ends and scarce means with their alternative uses
Ajenifuja
what is Equilibrium?
Fatima Reply
it means equal price and equal quality
Arthur
thank u Arthur!
Fatima
😇🙏
Fatima
Thanks
Moses
Equilibrium is a state of balance in an economy. In as far as market forces are reasonably concerned, equilibrium means the state at which the quantity of goods supplied is equal to the quantity of goods demanded.
Xavier
what is labour
Ayham
labor can be define as a both physical and mental effort of man put forward towards production
Habib
name the types of demand and explain any two
ALIMAMYISLA
Joint demand Composite demand Competitive demand
Ajenifuja
Labourcan be defined as man mental and physical exertion
Ajenifuja
equilibrium is a state of balance especially between opposing forces or influences
Nkwenti
what is elasticity
Motseoa Reply
difference between demand and supply
Adeyemi Reply
Demand- It is the desire of a buyer and his ability to pay for a particular commodity at a specific price. Supply- It is quantity of a commodity which is made available by the producers to its consumers at certain price.
Ali
yes OK thank you dear
Gyamfua
Demand can be defined as the ability a buyer is willing and able to pay at a specific price and in agiven period of time Supply can be defined as the ability the producer is willing to supply with a specific price
Ajenifuja
thanks
antony
what is labor force
Habib
demand represents the consumer while supply represents the firm
Nkwenti
restriction on international trade
Ayim Reply
formula for price elasticity of demand
Lognyuu Reply
what is average cost advantage and absolute cost advantage
Tamo Reply
cost advantage is an advantage that the firm has over competitors in terms of costs absolute advantage is d ability of an individual company, region,or country to produce a greater quantity of a good of service with the same quantity of inputs per unit per time
Nkwenti
what is ceteris paribus
Uchaash
other things remain constant.
Esale
can you explain in more details about ceteris paribus?
Uchaash
what is demand
Home Reply
demand can be defined as the quantity of a commodity which people are willing to buy at particular times and at a given price .
YAHA
you are talking about campaney in my self ihave campaney why don't you calculated my business
Adow Reply

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Source:  OpenStax, Principles of economics. OpenStax CNX. Sep 19, 2014 Download for free at http://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11613/1.11
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