U.S. federal deficit was US$86B in December, US$322B through the first three months of budget year, US$47B less than year-ago period; government will run US$973B deficit for the budget year that began Oct. 1, budget office estimates

WASHINGTON , January 12, 2012 () – The federal deficit was lower in the first quarter of the budget year than the same period last year.

That's modest progress for a nation that has struggled with trillion-dollar deficits. Still, the imbalance remains high by historical standards and should keep lawmakers debating tax increases and spending cuts through Election Day.

The Treasury Department says the deficit was $86 billion in December. And it was $322 billion through the first three months of the budget year — $47 billion less than the same time last year.

The Congressional Budget Office estimates the government will run a $973 billion deficit for the budget year that began on Oct. 1. While lower than last year's $1.3 trillion imbalance, it would be higher than any previous deficit before fiscal year 2009.

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