Merchandise trade only include trade in goods, not services nor capital transfers and foreign investments. Official merchandise trade statistics measure the level, month-over-month and year-over-year changes in total trades, exports and imports. Balance of merchandise trade is equaled to total exports minus general imports. Exports are defined as total exports which include 1. Domestically produced goods and 2. Re-exports, that are re-exporting of goods which are imported and warehoused in U.S. General imports constitute of imports for immediate consumption channels and warehouses. Merchandise trade is reported in current U.S. dollars with no inflation adjustments. Merchandise trade report is published by the U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census and Foreign Trade Division (FTD).
While merchandise trade can be used as an indicator of the overall health of the U.S economy, one must be cautious and avoid misinterpreting merchandise trade deficit as trade deficits. This is because trade deficit is sometimes used interchangeably with merchandise trade deficit, deficit in goods and services or current account deficit. Deficit in goods and services includes significant U.S. economic services such as tourism, financial services, transportation, and telecommunications. Therefore, it is important to distinguish that merchandise trade only refers to trade in goods whereas trade deficit can also refer to deficit in goods and services or current account deficit. In this case, even if U.S. is running a merchandise trade deficit that does not mean the economy is not doing well because it can be a net importer of goods but a net exporter of services.