The United States posted a greater-than-expected $57.71 billion budget surplus in April, the largest monthly surplus in three years, as tax receipts swelled, the Treasury Department (search) said on Wednesday.

The April reading surpassed Wall Street expectations for a $55 billion budget surplus and raised the possibility of a much lower fiscal 2005 fiscal deficit than first forecast.

U.S. government revenues are typically robust in April due to a midmonth income tax filing deadline.

This April's surplus was the government's largest since April 2002, when it was $67.17 billion, and more than $40 billion bigger than the surplus in April last year.

Government receipts jumped 26 percent in April from the same month in 2004, and outlays rose almost 9 percent.

So far this fiscal year, which began in October, the U.S. has recorded a $236.94 billion budget gap — more than 16 percent slimmer than its $283.83 billion deficit in the first seven months of fiscal 2004.

Total government receipts have reached $1.217 trillion so far in fiscal 2005, about 14 percent larger than the same period last year.

Analysts said the higher revenues were a sign of economic renewal, which could bring about a narrower budget gap in fiscal 2005 than last year's record $413 billion.

David Sloan, an economist at 4CAST Ltd., said he now expects a $350 billion budget deficit in fiscal 2005. The White House Office of Management and Budget has forecast a $427 billion gap this fiscal year.

Treasury Secretary John Snow said last week that higher tax receipts would help cut budget deficits and keep the Bush administration in view of its goal to halve the fiscal gap in five years.