By Mark Felsenthal
WASHINGTON May 10 The United States posted a
budget surplus for the first time in 42 months in April on a
rise in tax receipts and a drop in government spending, although
it partly reflected a shifting of some payments to other months.
The government notched a larger-than-expected $59.12 billion
surplus last month, compared with a $40.39 billion deficit in
April 2011, the Treasury Department said on Thursday. The last
time the government logged a surplus in any month was September
2008, when the worst of the financial crisis began to rock Wall
Analysts surveyed by Reuters had forecast a $30 billion
surplus for April, although the nonpartisan Congressional Budget
Office said on Monday it expected a surplus of $58 billion.
While the one-month surplus does not signal a turnaround in
U.S. indebtedness - the nation is still projected to run a
fourth straight year of deficits topping $1 trillion - it could
be taken as a modest reflection of a slowly improving economy.
However, the budget gap is so large, Congress and the
administration cannot side-step the need for action if they are
to put a significant dent in it, said Cooper Hawes, an analyst
for Barclays Capital.
"While the report is encouraging, the deficit is still large
by historical standards and will likely eventually require
significant fiscal adjustments," Hawes said.
Treasury Department officials noted that the size of the
surplus was amplified by calendar peculiarities that resulted in
lower tax refunds or moved some benefit payments into March.
Even so, the cumulative budget deficit for the first seven
months of the fiscal year totaled $719.86 billion, compared with
a shortfall of $869.81 billion over the same period in fiscal
The government typically runs a budget surplus in April,
when most Americans pay their income taxes. The government has
been in the black in 44 of 58 Aprils since records have been