The huge U.S. trade deficit fell to its lowest level in six years in January as the deepening recession cut U.S. demand for oil and other imported goods.

The trade deficit is the gap between what the United States exports and what Americans buy from foreigners.  

The Commerce Department says the deficit fell 9.7 percent in January, narrowing the gap to $36 billion for the month.  It is the sixth month in a row the gap has narrowed.

While the recession has cut U.S. demand for foreign goods, it is also reducing the sales of American-made products overseas, but not quite as deeply.  

A separate report from the University of Michigan says U.S. consumers remain pessimistic about the economy.  Researchers surveyed hundreds of people to gauge consumer sentiment, which improved slightly but is still hovering near a 28 year low.

Economists track consumer sentiment for clues about the consumer spending that drives most U.S. economic activity.


Some information for this report was provided by AFP and AP.