A Treasury official said that the administration now believes the cost of the financial rescue program will be at least $200 billion below the $341 billion estimate it made in August.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the administration's new projection has not been released, said the lower estimate reflected faster repayments by big banks and less spending on some of the rescue programs as the financial sector recovered from its free fall more quickly than the administration originally expected.
The administration had made the $341 billion estimate as part of its midsession budget review released in August.
The Treasury official said Monday that the new figures were being finalized in a report being prepared by the Government Accountability Office. That report is expected to be made public on Wednesday.
The official said that the administration believes the losses incurred from the money already spent will total $42 billion. About half of those losses are expected to occur from the support provided to troubled automakers General Motors Corp. and Chrysler LLC; the other half will come from the rescue package put together for insurance giant American International Group.
The $42 billion in projected losses from TARP spending that occurred in the 2009 budget year, which ended on Sept. 30, is a sharp improvement from the administration's August estimate that those losses would total $110 billion. The loss figure represents the net loss to the government after subtracting earnings the government has received in interest and dividend payments.
The official said the new estimates will become part of the administration's new budget, which president Barack Obama will present to Congress in February. The reduction in projected losses from the rescue program will mean that at least some of the savings could be used to reduce the government's projected deficit, which the administration estimated in August would hit $1.5 trillion in the current budget year.
The $700 billion financial rescue program, known as the Troubled Asset Relief Program, was passed by Congress in October 2008 at the height of the worst financial crisis to hit the country since the 1930s.
Obama is scheduled to give a speech on the economy Tuesday and White House officials have said it is likely that the president will talk about using repaid TARP funds for a new job-creation program. Any such proposal would have to be approved by Congress, where Republican leaders have already voiced strong opposition, arguing that all the money should go to reducing the deficit.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other top Democrats have been drafting a jobs bill that would tap resources in the bailout program.
Among the proposals being considered are funding as much as $70 billion in new transportation and infrastructure projects, providing new tax credits aimed at encouraging small businesses to hire workers and providing additional aid to state governments to preserve public sector jobs.
Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner indicated Friday that the administration was considering supporting not only increased job creation with the TARP funds but also helping to reduce future budget deficits.
Geithner said that the administration expected to have $175 billion in repayments from the banking system by the end of next year.
Treasury has spent about $450 billion from the TARP, including around $290 billion poured into banks.
Bank of America announced last week that it would return $45 billion it had received, adding to the $71 billion already repaid by nearly 50 other financial companies. Banks have also paid the Treasury about $7 billion in dividends.
Lowering the estimated cost of TARP will also lower the administration's projections for budget deficits.
The deficit for the 2009 budget year, which ended in September, hit a record $1.42 trillion and the administration in August projected a slightly higher deficit for the current year.