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The US trade gap narrowed slightly in March, confounding expectations of a rise. Meanwhile, first-time jobless claims fell more than Wall Street anticipated.

The trade gap fell by $100m in March from the previous month to $43.7bn, according to data from the US commerce department released on Thursday. Economists forecast a reading of $44.5bn.

Imports and exports both slipped by $1.7bn, to $234.7bn and $191bn, respectively.

The trade deficit is a drag on gross domestic product, so lower figures could be a positive to future readings on first-quarter economic growth.

Meanwhile, weekly claims for first-time unemployment benefits slid to 238,000 last week, from 257,000 the week prior. Wall Street was looking for a higher figure of 248,000.

The data come just a day ahead of the closely watched monthly jobs report from the labour department that is expected to show the economy added 190,000 jobs last month.

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2018. All rights reserved.

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