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The U.S. current account deficit - a broad measure of trade in goods, services and investments - fell by $3.8 billion to $22.9 billion in the first quarter of 1990, the Commerce Department said Tuesday.

A government spokesman said the trade deficit was the smallest since $20.5 billion in the fourth quarter of 1984, and that the 1989 total of $110 billion was the smallest yearly shortfall since $104.2 billion in 1984.Private analysts had expected a deficit of $25.7 billion for the January, February and March quarter.

"It has to be taken as a favorable development," said Robert Dederick, chief economist at Northern Trust in Chicago. "You had a nice narrowing."

The report by the department's Bureau of Economic Analysis also said the government revised its fourth quarter 1989 estimate of the current account deficit to $26.7 billion.

Dederick said the current account deficit peaked in 1987 and "we still seem to be having a sustained improvement in it" because of the lower dollar and roaring markets abroad.

"When you talk with American manufacturers now they say we're competitive," he said. "Europe is in a boom. The Far East is expanding."