Fewer banks eased standards on loans to businesses in the thirdquarter, and lenders tightened standards on credit to Europeanbanks and their affiliates, according to a Federal Reservesurvey.

Banks were slightly more likely to ease than tighten theirstandards on credit, “in contrast to more widespread reports ofsuch easing in previous quarters,” the central bank said today inits quarterly survey of senior loan officers. Banks that raisedtheir standards “cited a less favorable or more uncertain economicoutlook as a reason for the tightening.”

Fed Chairman Ben S. Bernanke and his colleagues on the FederalOpen Market Committee are struggling to boost an economy so weakthat unemployment has been near 9 percent or higher for 31consecutive months. In a press conference last week, Bernanke saidthe expansion is hampered by “still-tight credit conditions” formany households and small businesses and that “monetary policy hasbeen blunted” by the dysfunctional mortgage market.

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