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Federal government posts $55.2 billion budget surplus in January

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WASHINGTON — The federal government recorded a budget surplus in January of $55.2 billion, helped by a timing quirk that shifted benefit payments to December.

The Treasury Department says the January surplus marked an improvement from January 2015 when the government recorded a small deficit of $17.5 billion. Part of the improvement reflected the fact that $42 billion in benefit checks were sent out in December because the regular payment period fell on a weekend.

For the first four months of this budget year, the deficit totals $160.4 billion, below last year's deficit of $194.2 billion for the same period.

Both the Obama administration and the Congressional Budget Office are forecasting that this year's deficit will top last year's imbalance of $439.1 billion.

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