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Federal government runs Dec. surplus of $53.2B

WASHINGTON — The U.S. government ran a $53.2 billion surplus in December, signaling further improvement in the nation’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 $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 $173.6 billion. That’s 40.8 percent below the $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 $600 billion. That would be even lower than last year’s deficit of $680 billion, which was the lowest since 2008.

Annual deficits ballooned above $1 trillion from 2009 through 2012. They peaked at a record $1.4 trillion in 2009, 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.