A trade deficit, which is also referred to as net exports, is an economic condition that occurs when a country is importing more goods than it is exporting. The deficit equals the value of goods being imported minus the value of goods being exported, and it is given in the currency of the country in question. For example, assume that the United Kingdom imports 800 billion British pounds worth of goods, while exporting only 750 billion pounds. In this example, the trade deficit, or net exports, would be 50 million pounds.

Measuring a country's net imports or net exports is a difficult task, which involves different accounts that measure different flows of investment. These accounts are the current account and the financial account, which are then totaled to help form the balance of payments figure. The current account is used as a measure for all of the amounts involved in importing and exporting goods and services, any interest earned from foreign sources, and any money transfers between countries. The financial account is made up of the total changes in foreign and domestic property ownership. The net amounts of these two accounts are then entered into the balance of payments. (To learn more, see What Is The Balance Of Payments?, Understanding The Current Account In The Balance Of Payments and Understanding The Capital And Financial Accounts In The Balance Of Payments.)

In terms of the stock market, a prolonged trade deficit could have adverse effects. If a country has been importing more goods than it is exporting for a sustained period of time, it is essentially going into debt (much like a household would). Over time, investors will notice the decline in spending on domestically produced goods, which will hurt domestic producers and their stock prices. Given enough time, investors will realize fewer investment opportunities domestically and begin to invest in foreign stock markets, as prospects in these markets will be much better. This will lower demand in the domestic stock market and cause that market to decline.

  1. When has the United States run its largest trade deficits?

    Learn in what year the United States ran its largest negative balance of trade as a result of imports greatly exceeding the ... Read Answer >>
  2. At what level is the current account deficit considered excessive, in terms of percent?

    Take a deeper look at the variables that impact current account deficits, and learn why not all types of deficits have equal ... Read Answer >>
  3. Is a current account deficit good or bad for the economy?

    Take a deeper look at the nature of a country's current account balance, and see why trade deficits are neither good nor ... Read Answer >>
  4. What is the difference between a nation's current account deficit and its currency ...

    Learn the respective meanings of the two terms, current account deficit and currency valuation, and understand the relationship ... Read Answer >>
  5. Is a deficit in the balance of payments a bad thing?

    Discover how it might be possible to run a balance of payments deficit, what that means in terms of international trade and ... Read Answer >>
  6. Why do developed countries run current account deficits?

    Discover why developed countries tend to run current account deficits and why running a current account deficit is not a ... Read Answer >>
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