A majority of the largest national banks tightened their underwriting standards on home mortgages during a 12-month period ending March 31, according to a new report released by the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC).

OCC's survey of the 51 largest national banks found that 59% of these lenders tightened their underwriting on single-family loans while only 5% eased.

Examiners reported that "tighter underwriting standards remained prevalent," according to the regulator's annual bank underwriting report.

"Underwriting standards remained conservative because of poor performance resulting from more liberal underwriting standards in prior years, particularly 2005 through 2007, and continuing economic weakness," the OCC said.

In a recent speech, Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke commented that many households are having "difficulties" obtaining mortgage credit.

Tight mortgage credit and "cautious" consumers are working to keep the housing market at depressed levels, he said at an economic forum in Jackson Hole, Wyo.

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