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Jan trade gap narrows unexpectedly due to oil

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. trade deficit narrowed unexpectedly in January as oil imports fell to their lowest since February 1999, a government report showed on Thursday.

The trade gap shrank 6.6 percent to $37.3 billion, the Commerce Department said. U.S. exports declined, but not as much as the oil-led drop in imports.

Analysts had expected the deficit to widen to $41.0 billion from $39.9 billion in December, which was revised down from a previously reported $40.2 billion.

Average prices for imported oil hit $73.89 per barrel, the highest since October 2008, while the quantity of imported crude oil fell to an 11-year low.

(Reporting by Doug Palmer; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)

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