U.S. trade deficit increased only slightly in January

The U.S. trade deficit widened slightly in January as a rise in imports of oil and other foreign goods offset a solid increase in exports.

The trade deficit increased to $39.1 billion, up 0.3 percent from December’s revised $39 billion deficit, the Commerce Department reported Friday.

The trade deficit is the difference between imports and exports. A higher trade deficit acts as a drag on economic growth because it means U.S. companies are making less overseas then their foreign competitors are earning in U.S. sales. 

U.S. consumer borrowing up $13.7 billion in January

Consumers increased their borrowing in January on autos and student loans but cut back on their credit card use.

Consumer borrowing rose $13.7 billion in January following an even larger $15.9 billion rise in December, the Federal Reserve reported Friday.

The category that includes auto and student loans increased $13.9 billion, while the category that covers credit cards fell $226 million, marking the third time in the past five months that credit card loans have declined. 

MasterCard, Visa plan group focused on boosting security

Visa and MasterCard are forming a group intended to help the retail and banking industries come together on more-secure credit card payments.

Credit card breaches at Neiman Marcus, Target and other retailers have put a spotlight on the weak spots in the security of credit card payments.

The group’s initial focus will be on chips embedded in newer credit cards that make them more secure.

– From news service reports