WASHINGTON — The federal government posted a $2.9 billion budget surplus in January after running a $260 million shortfall the previous month, the Treasury Department reported Tuesday.

The January surplus, the first since September and only the third since April 2012, was in contrast to the $2 billion deficit projected by economists polled by Thomson Reuters.

In January 2012, the government ran a $27.4 billion deficit.

January outlays totaled $269.3 billion, a 3% increase from $261.7 billion in January 2012. Receipts were $272.2 billion, a 16% bump from $234.3 billion a year ago.

A Treasury official said that incorporating adjustments, including a $16 billion shift of recurring benefit payments from January to December, would result in a $13 billion deficit. For fiscal year 2013, the deficit stands at $290.4 billion.

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