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Reuters, Published February 07 2014

Online shoppers help curb Postal Service's first-quarter losses

WASHINGTON - The U.S. Postal Service narrowed its losses in its first quarter that ended December as a surge in online shopping and package delivery boosted its revenues.

The agency, which has lost money for 19 of the last 21 quarters, lost $354 million in October to December of 2013, compared to the same quarter the previous year when it posted a net loss of $1.3 billion.

Revenues from shipping and package delivery rose by 14.1 percent or $479 million, driven by a growth in online shopping and a lucrative deal with online retail giant Amazon to deliver packages on Sundays in some U.S. cities, the agency said on Friday.

The Postal Service has been grappling with tumbling mail volumes as Americans communicate more online, and struggles under the weight of massive required payments for future retiree health benefits. A 2006 law requires the Postal Service to fund 75 years worth of its future retirees' healthcare by 2016.

The agency has sought legislation to allow it to become more innovative and to find other ways to raise revenues, including switching to a five-day delivery system and managing its own healthcare system. But so far Congress has failed to pass reform legislation.

"The Postal Service is doing its part within the bounds of law to right size the organization, and I am very proud of the achievements we have made to reduce costs while significantly growing our package business," Postmaster General and CEO Patrick Donahoe said in a statement. "We cannot return the organization to long-term financial stability without passage of comprehensive postal reform legislation."