Lowest level since 2002: The U.S. trade deficit plunged in January to the lowest level in six years as a deepening recession cut demand for imported goods. The Commerce Department says the trade imbalance dropped to $36 billion in January, a decline of 9.7% from December and the lowest level since October 2002. The improvement was better than the $38 billion deficit that economists had expected and reflected the fact that crude oil imports dropped to the lowest point in three years and demand for a wide variety of other foreign goods from autos to heavy machinery and household appliances declined.
Election, Olympics kept figures from being worse: Advertisers spent $136.8 billion on U.S. commercial spots in 2008, a 2.6% drop from the year before. The Nielsen Company says only two media categories reported increases in advertising revenue: Hispanic cable TV, which saw a 9.6% jump in revenue, and cable TV, which was up 7.8%. Nielsen notes the figures could have been much worse because the presidential campaign and the Summer Olympics drove a lot of television ad buys. The nation’s top 10 advertisers spent a total of $15.5 billion or 15% less than in 2007. That figure was affected by drops of at least 15% by the Big Three U.S. automakers.