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Signaling rebound, US gov't tallies December surplus of US$53.2 bil.

WASHINGTON--The U.S. government ran a US$53.2 billion surplus in December, signaling further improvement in America's finances.

The surplus was the largest since September and a record for the month of December, according to the Treasury Department report released Monday. It was boosted by nearly US$40 billion in payments from mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

For the first three months of the budget year, which began on Oct. 1, the Treasury has run a deficit of US$173.6 billion. That's 40.8 percent below the US$293.3 billion deficit run during the same period last year.

Rising tax revenues and government spending constraints are expected to trim this year's annual deficit to around US$600 billion. That would be even lower than last year's deficit of US$680 billion, which was the lowest since 2008.

Annual deficits ballooned above US$1 trillion from 2009 through 2012. They peaked at a record US$1.4 trillion in 2009, U.S. President Barack Obama's first year in office.

The Great Recession led to a drop in tax revenue. At the same time, the government stepped up emergency spending, including unemployment benefits for millions who lose their jobs during the downturn.

The economy has gradually improved since the recession ended in June 2009. As more people find jobs, tax revenue rises and the deficit shrinks.

So far this year, revenue has totaled US$664.6 billion. That's 8 percent higher than the first three months of the previous budget year. Outlays have fallen 7.8 percent to US$838.2 billion.

The quarterly payment from Fannie and Freddie helped lift December's surplus. An improving housing market is allowing the two companies to repay their taxpayer assistance after being rescued by the government in September 2008.

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