CALGARY - Despite glimmers of economic hope, Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach says the provincial deficit is likely to be worse than originally expected at the end of the current fiscal year.

Stelmach acknowledges that the $7-billion forecasted shortfall will likely be even higher at the end of the year.

He says ”abnormally high levels” of natural gas in storage and low prices for the commodity are hurting the revenue stream into provincial coffers.

The government had originally anticipated a deficit of $4.7 billion when it unveiled its budget in April.

Stelmach says there will be an economic update on the first quarter results at the end of August.

Alberta recorded its first deficit budget in 15 years in 2008 after a string of surplus budgets helped it pay off $25 billion in debt accumulated in the 1980s and early 90s.

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