The U.S. trade deficit fell to its lowest level in nearly six years in December, according to the Commerce Department, as the recession depressed demand for imports of oil, autos, and other foreign-made products. The December deficit represented a 4 percent decline to $39.9 billion, from $41.6 billion in November. For the year, the deficit shrank by 3.3 percent to $677.1 billion. It was the second straight annual decline after five straight years of record deficits, and many economists believe the deficit for 2009 will be half the size of 2008's gap. Nonetheless, the deficit with China continued rising in 2008, hitting an all-time high of $266.3 billion, the highest imbalance ever recorded with any country. The deficit with China has set records throughout the decade, with many calling for trade sanctions against Beijing, contending that China's unfair trade practices have cost American manufacturing jobs.
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