Budget Surplus in U.S. Narrows in December as Spending Surges

The budget surplus for December narrowed more than economists forecast from a year earlier on a surge in spending as calendar quirks affected government payment dates, Treasury Department figures showed.

Revenue exceeded spending by $1.87 billion last month, compared with a $53.2 billion surplus a year earlier, the department said in a report released today in Washington. The median estimate in a Bloomberg survey of 27 economists was for a $3 billion surplus.

Some January payments were booked last month, and the 2013 figures benefited from a shift in payments to November that didn’t occur in the most recent period, the Treasury said. Still, the U.S. deficit has been shrinking in recent years as the economy strengthens, hiring picks up and company profits improve.

“There was a calendar quirk in 2013 that pushed some of the spending into November, so spending may appear to be higher than that in December,” Scott Brown, chief economist at Raymond James & Associates Inc. in St. Petersburg, said before the report. “But if you look at the underlying trend, the deficit hasn’t been an issue.”

Revenue last month was $335.3 billion, 17.6 percent higher than a year earlier, while outlays jumped 43.8 percent to $333.5 billion, the report showed.

For the first three months of the fiscal year that began Oct. 1, the country ran a $176.7 billion deficit, compared with $172.6 billion from October through December 2013, according to the report.

A Labor Department report last week showed the economy added 252,000 jobs in December, capping the best year for job growth since 1999.

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