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The gap between United States exports and imports split wide open in the first quarter, the Commerce Department reported Monday. Driven by the strength of the US economy and of the dollar, the foreign trade deficit hit a record $25.8 billion in the first three months of this year, way beyond the previous quarter's record $19.4 billion deficit. Exports rose 4 percent in the first quarter, but imports grew 12 percent. The numbers record merchandise trade only; they do not include services or financial transactions.

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