The U.S. budget deficit narrowed in March compared to the same month last year, as the government got more money from payroll and income taxes and had to spend less on its financial rescue fund. The March deficit was $107 billion, about $5 billion lower than economists' expectations, according to Treasury Department data released on Wednesday. The deficit in March 2012 was $198 billion. The government's cumulative deficit for the fiscal year, which started in October, narrowed to $600 billion, down 23 percent from the first six months of fiscal 2012. Government spending was $293 billion in March, below the year-ago level of $369 billion. That was largely because of a lower estimate for the costs of the Troubled Asset Relief Program, the government's financial bailout program. Defense spending also was down 16 percent compared to last year. Receipts were $186 billion last month, 9 percent higher than receipts in March 2012, driven in part by higher payroll and income taxes passed in the "fiscal cliff" agreement in January. In the past six months, government receipts have risen 12 percent to $1.197 trillion, compared to the same period in fiscal 2012. Spending has fallen 3 percent to $1.797 trillion, the Treasury Department said.
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