The deficit benefited from increasing exports and decreasing imports. Both categories had many factors, but both were fueled largely by domestic oil production.
The petroleum deficit in December fell to $18.7 billion, the lowest since August 2009.
Overall imports fell to almost $225 billion in December, down $6.2 billion from November.
Oil imports have fallen steadily since 2006, dipping to 8.13 million barrels a day in November, which is a level unseen since 1996.
U.S. oil producers recovered nearly 6.9 million barrels of oil per day in November, the highest level since August 1992.
While imports decreased, exports grew.
The country's total exports improved in December by $3.9 billion, to $186.4 billion.
The growth was led by a 3.6 percent gain in refined petroleum products — mostly diesel — to nearly 2.8 million barrels per day.
Diesel exports to Brazil alone jumped 59 percent through the first 11 months of 2012, climbing to 255,000 barrels a day.
For the year, total U.S. goods and services exports in 2012 grew by $92.6 billion to reach a record of $2.2 trillion.