The Federal Reserve's quarterly survey of senior loan officers shows many banks stopped tightening credit in the fourth quarter -- but some are making an exception for real estate. For these loans, about 27% of banks tightened standards. One-quarter of banks surveyed report a weakening demand for real estate loans, while 4% say demand has grown. "For many major loan categories covered by the survey, the net percentages of respondents that tightened standards in the fourth quarter of 2009 were close to zero," the Fed said.

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