The Postal Service recorded a $1 billion profit in the first quarter of the fiscal year, topping expectations by $200 million, the agency said Tuesday.

The busy three-month period before Christmas meant a heavy mail volume for the post office, producing income to help balance slower periods.

Richard J. Strasser Jr., the agency's chief financial officer, said the post office had revenue of $16.1 billion during the period covering Sept. 7 to Nov. 29.

That was $300 million less than had been expected, but cost cutting and staff reductions lowered expenses by $500 million, Strasser said.

The post office had a net loss of $1.35 billion last fiscal year but anticipates finishing this year in the black due to cost cutting and the rate increase that took effect last summer.

Strasser told the agency's board of governors that during the first quarter the post office delivered 49.3 billion pieces of mail, an increase of 742 million.

Standard advertising mail volume increased by 1.5 billion pieces, driven by election mail, while First-Class volume — cards, letters and bills, for example — dropped 629 million pieces.

Strasser projected that the second quarter will be similar to the first, with revenue and volume lagging behind projections due to slow economic conditions. He said cost controls are expected to produce a net income at or above a planned $360 million for the quarter.