The post office is likely to post another billion-dollar profit year.
"Preliminary figures show we achieved a third straight year with billion-dollar net income," Postmaster General Marvin Runyon told the agency's board of governors Tuesday.
Also Tuesday, the post office said it delivered 92 percent of local first-class mail on time between mid-May and mid-September, a record-tying performance, despite the added volume of the United Parcel Service strike.
The national 92-percent on-time performance is 1 percentage point better than the same period a year earlier and ties the 92 percent on-time performance of the previous quarter.
Surpluses in 1995 and 1996 totaled $3.4 billion, allowing the Postal Service to reduce its outstanding debt from $6 billion to $2.7 billion.
Anticipating rising costs, the agency has applied for a 1-cent increase in the current 32-cent first-class stamp price, but that is not expected to take effect before next summer.