The federal government ran a surplus (search) of $8.67 billion in January and the shortfall for the first four months of the budget year is running 17 percent below the red ink of a year ago, the Treasury Department (search) said Thursday.

In its monthly budget statement, the department said the deficit from October through January totaled $109.2 billion, down from $131.5 billion in red ink for the same period last year.

The Bush administration, in the budget it submitted to Congress on Monday, predicted the deficit for the budget year that began last Oct. 1 will climb to a record $427 billion, up 3.6 percent from last year's $412 billion, the current record in dollar terms.

After this year, the administration is forecasting that the deficit will gradually decline, hitting $233 billion in 2009, the year the administration has pledged that the deficit (search) will be cut in half from the 2004 level as a proportion of the total economy. The 2004 deficit was 3.6 percent of the economy and the 2009 deficit is projected to be 1.5 percent of the total economy.

For January, the government enjoyed an actual surplus: $8.67 billion. In January 2004, there was a deficit of $1.38 billion. The January surplus followed a revised $2.73 billion deficit in December, which originally had been reported as a larger deficit of $3.44 billion. It was the first monthly surplus since last September, when receipts outran spending by $24.6 billion.

Through January, government receipts have totaled $798.66 billion, up 10.1 percent from the same period a year ago. That has helped to narrow the deficit because government spending is up a smaller 5.4 percent, totaling $798.7 billion through the first four months of the year.