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Allied war payments erase U.S. trade deficit

The United States posted its first quarterly trade surplus in nearly nine years during the first three months of the year, but only because of $22.7-billion in foreign payments for the Persian Gulf war, the government said Tuesday. The Commerce Department said the rare $10.2-billion surplus in the current account, the broadest measure of the country's trading performance, would not have occurred without the contributions from Saudi Arabia, Japan and other countries.

However, the government noted that country's trade performance also was aided by an all-time high in U.S. export sales and a drop in imports stemming from the recession.

The Bush administration said the trade report supports its belief that strength in exports will help the country pull out of the recession.

President Bush said Tuesday that although the recession has lasted longer than he expected, "a turnaround in the economy appears in the making" even though some sectors remain sluggish.

Referring to recent economic statistics, Bush said he is "bullish on the economy." He said the May unemployment report showed that more than half of all industries added to their payrolls last month while other reports showed industrial output on the rise.