The US trade deficit hit another high in October, with imports outpacing exports by US$55.46 billion.
The 9 percent increase was higher than expected, and economists immediately blamed the twin pressures of rising imports and high oil prices.
Even the weakening dollar failed to stop the widening trade gap.
Economists had hoped that a falling dollar would strengthen US exports and at least stabilize Washington's trade deficit.
The Bush administration said on Tuesday that oil prices were a big factor in the poor numbers and stagnant foreign demand for American exports.
As proof of the impact of high oil prices, the US set a record US$7.2 billion trade deficit with the countries of OPEC in October.
The 9 percent increase from the September trade deficit of US$50.9 billion led economists to question how long the US can sustain this deficit and attract foreign investors to underwrite it. The annual current account deficit, which represents the difference between foreign trade and investment in the US, and trade and investment abroad, is a record annual rate of US$665 billion, or 5.7 percent of GDP in the second quarter of this year.
Economists and trade experts say that the US deserves a share of the blame, too.
"In large part, today's US trade deficits are made in Washington," Stephen Roach, the chief economist at Morgan Stanley, said in a research report. "Lacking in private saving, outsize US budget deficits are leading to ever-widening current account and trade deficits."
Higher oil prices were behind half of the US$4.6 billion increase in this month's trade deficit.
Ashraf Laidi, the chief currency analyst at MG Financial Group in New York, said "soaring oil imports reared their ugly head, affirming our long-established view that the trade deficit cannot be stabilized by a falling dollar alone, especially when rising oil prices are exacerbating imports."