WASHINGTON : US exports surged in September helped by strong aircraft sales and imports fell sharply, closing the country's monthly trade deficit to the smallest in 19 months, the Commerce Department reported. Overall trade in goods and services also picked up, for a three-month gain that suggested the long slowdown due to the weak global economy may have turned a corner.  Goods exports rose by $0.6 billion from August to $126.1 billion, despite a sharp falloff in soybean sales that had sharply inflated the numbers of the previous two months.

Goods imports fell by $2.0 billion to $183.7 billion, with lower purchases of pharmaceuticals offsetting a jump in auto and auto parts imports.

Meanwhile the net services trade surplus also improved, by $1.4 billion.

That left the total deficit, for both goods and services, at $36.4 billion, down from $40.5 billion in August.

The data suggested that a two-year decline in overall trade, reflecting the global slowdown in commerce, could be ending. While the data for the year to September showed total trade down about 3.5 percent from a year earlier, the July-September period was up from each of the two previous quarters.