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Container and cargo ships sit anchored in San Francisco Bay in this file photo.ERIC RISBERG/The Associated Press

The U.S. trade deficit narrowed in January from a more than two-year high after port disputes on the West Coast restrained imports and a strengthening dollar slowed overseas demand.

The gap declined to $41.8-billion in January from a revised $45.6-billion the month before, the Commerce Department reported Friday in Washington. The median forecast in a Bloomberg survey of economists called for a $41.1-billion deficit.

The data reflected a labor dispute at West Coast ports that skewed both imports and exports, disrupting supply chains for U.S. companies. Imports fell by 3.9 per cent, today's figures showed, while exports dropped by 2.9 per cent.

The distortion in the January data is "not representative of the future trend," David Sloan, senior economist at 4Cast Inc. in New York, said before the report. "The U.S. is increasingly becoming the main global motor of growth, though we may lose a little momentum later into the year, particularly if the Fed starts tightening."

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