WASHINGTON — The federal government ran a $65.4 billion deficit in March while collecting savings from federal financial assistance programs, the Treasury Department announced yesterday.

Outlays totaled $218.7 billion and receipts totaled $153.4 billion. Receipts have increased on a year-over-year basis for two consecutive months, the first back-to-back gain since April 2008.

Economists had expected a $65 billion deficit for the month, according to the median estimate from Thomson Reuters. The government has run a deficit for a record 18 consecutive months.

In February, the deficit was $220.9 billion.

The Treasury had a $2.7 billion negative outlay in the Troubled Asset Relief Program for the month.

The Treasury spent $5.9 billion on the program in the fiscal year through March compared with $114.7 billion in fiscal 2010 through March last year.

The total fiscal year deficit through March was $717.0 billion, or about 9.9% of gross domestic product.

Through March in fiscal 2010, the deficit to GDP was 11%. President Obama’s fiscal 2011 budget estimates a 10% deficit-to-GDP ratio.

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