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Spending cuts, shutdown lower US budget deficit

WASHINGTON — The U.S. government started the first month of the 2014 budget year with a $91.6 billion deficit, signaling further improvement in the nation’s finances at a time when lawmakers are wrestling to reach a deal that would keep the government open past January.

The Treasury Department said Wednesday that the deficit in October was 24 percent lower than the $120 billion imbalance recorded in October 2012. The deficit is the gap between the government’s tax revenue and spending.

Across-the-board spending cuts and the partial government shutdown helped reduce expenditures last month, the first of the new budget year. Higher taxes and a better economy also boosted revenue.

The October decline comes after the government ran an annual deficit of $680 billion in the budget year that ended on Sept. 30. That was the lowest in five years and the first in that period below $1 trillion. Shrinking deficits could take some pressure off of lawmakers, who are facing an informal Dec. 13 deadline to reach a deal to fund government and avoid another shutdown.