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US Treasury estimates federal borrowing will total $552 billion this year, lowest in 8 years

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WASHINGTON — The Treasury Department on Monday estimated that it will end up borrowing $552 billion for the current budget year, the lowest total in eight years.

The Treasury's borrowing estimate covers the budget year that began last October and will end on Sept. 31. The figure would be a drop of 17.6 percent from last year's $670 billion and represent the smallest annual amount since the government borrowed $150 billion in 2007.

Borrowing began to surge after 2007 to meet a string of record deficits. Between 2009 and 2012, the deficit — the gap between revenues and spending — topped $1 trillion as the government struggled to cope with a financial crisis and the worst recession since the 1930s.

The government's current total debt stands at $18.1 trillion.

The government's annual borrowing peaked at $1.79 trillion in 2009 and has been falling since then. The Obama administration last month estimated that the deficit for the current year will drop to $455 billion, 5.8 percent below last year's deficit and the lowest yet of Barack Obama's presidency.

Currently, Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew is employing emergency measures such as withdrawing investments from government employee pension accounts to keep from breaching the debt ceiling.

In a letter to Congress last week, Lew said he expected to have enough maneuvering room to keep the government operating until late October or perhaps into early November. Lew has urged Republicans who control Congress to refrain from using the need to raise the debt limit as a form of "brinksmanship" to force the president to accept some of their legislative goals.

It was a standoff over raising the debt limit in August 2011 that prompted the first-ever downgrade of the nation's credit rating by Standard & Poor's.

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