The nation's trade deficit swelled to a record $19.7 billion in March, according to a govermment report. As a result the first quarter economic growth rate may be revised downward.

Exports rose a modest 0.9%, but were overwhelmed by the 1.9% gain in the value of imports. Economists had expected this jump because of the rise in cost of imported oil, but nonoil imports were also up for the third straight month.

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