The U.S. trade deficit widened more than expected in February as exports rose to the highest level in 16 months but this gain was offset by a bigger jump in imports, reflecting increased demand for consumer goods.

The wider deficit was a sign of a rebounding U.S. economy. Economists expect the trade deficit to rise this year but hope that expanding exports will continue to lift the fortunes of American manufacturing companies.

The Commerce Department reported that the deficit for February increased 7.4 percent to $39.7 billion. That was larger than the $38.5 billion deficit economists had expected. Exports edged up 0.2 percent while imports jumped 1.7 percent.