WASHINGTON -- The huge jump reported yesterday in the trade deficit in March reinforced analysts' predictions of a weaker U.S. trade picture this year that will hold back growth.

Reaching the highest level in almost four years, the U.S. merchandise trade balance in March surged 29.1% to $10.2 billion, the Commerce Department reported. U.S. exports gained 5.6% during the month to $39 billion, but imports advanced 9.7% to a record-high of $49.2 billion, the department said.

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