Dec. 15, 2004--The U.S. economy is breaking all kinds of dubious records this year. The Commerce Department delivered the latest bad news on Tuesday when it announced that the nation's trade deficit climbed 9% to reach a new all-time high of $55.5 billion in October.

Driven by a combination of high oil prices and record-breaking demand for imported goods, the nation's total trade deficit through the first 10 months now stands at $500.5 billion--topping the record of $496.5 billion accumulated for the full 12 months of 2003.

Total imports rose 3.4% to top $153 billion in October led by a record $19.7 worth of imported goods from China. The U.S. posted a $16.8 billion trade gap with the Asian economic superpower.

Helped by an 11.1% increase in the price of oil over the past month, the U.S. also set a record by importing $9.5 billion worth of goods and oil from the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, feeding a record $7.2 billion trade gap with the OPEC nations.

The one shred of good news for the economy was that the nation's exports rose 0.6% to a record-setting $98.1 billion as sales of U.S.-made industrial supplies totaled $18 billion around the globe.

Continued trade deficits could further threaten the nation's economy by alienating foreign investors, Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan said in a speech last month.