Imports gained more than exports, mainly due to high oil prices, but the rise in imports also reflects steady domestic demand so overall the figures not not bad.
Although the trade surplus declined for the ninth straight month, both exports and imports were up strongly in December.
It wouldn't be strange to see them continue to fall but they could also rise, and that would be because more people are willing to take risks and start up new businesses on the back of a better economy.
They can clarify the thinking behind a policy change by using the report to suggest the economic recovery will continue and prices will not turn down again.
The diffusion index was slightly weaker than expected but capital spending plans by big firms weren't bad for the start of a business year.
Sentiment going forward is cautious, which seems to be a trend in this economic recovery cycle, but capital spending plans are firm, indicating that companies are continuing to push ahead in business activity despite a cautious stance.