The federal government recorded a budget surplus in January of $55.2 billion, helped by a timing quirk that shifted benefit payments to December.
The Treasury Department said Wednesday that the surplus marked an improvement from January 2015 when the government recorded a small deficit of $17.5 billion. Part of the improvement reflected the fact that $42 billion in benefit checks were sent out in December because the regular payment period fell on a weekend.
For the first four months of this budget year, the deficit totaled $160.4 billion, below last year's deficit of $194.2 billion for the same period.
Both the Obama administration and the Congressional Budget Office...