The US trade deficit narrowed more sharply than expected in September as imports shrank amid slowing growth in the US and global economy, official data released today showed. 

The Commerce Department reported the trade gap fell to $40.8 billion in September, the lowest level in seven months, from a slightly downwardly revised $48 billion in August. 

The September deficit was much smaller than the consensus estimate of $43 billion.

US exports increased 1.6% in September to $187.9 billion, mainly driven by exports of consumer goods and capital goods. 

But imports fell 1.8% to $228.7 billion, exclusively due to a drop in imports of goods such as industrial supplies, capital goods and automotive vehicles and parts.

The trade report reflected a cooling US economy that saw growth at an annual rate of 1.5% in the three months from July to September after a robust 3.9% pace in the second quarter. 

The three-month moving average of the trade deficit shrank $1.5 billion to $43.5 billion in September. But the trade gap was still up 3.9% in the first nine months of the year, compared with the same time in 2014.

The decline in global oil prices and the boom in US shale production continued to reduce the trade gap in petroleum products, which fell to $5.6 billion in September.