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updated 8/16/2010 2:03:59 PM ET 2010-08-16T18:03:59

The Federal Reserve says banks have eased their lending standards for small businesses for the first time in nearly four years.

In its new survey of bank lending practices, the Fed found that the easing in loan standards was occurring primarily at the country's largest domestic banks.

The Fed says it's the first time it had found easier lending standards being imposed on small businesses since late 2006. The Fed defines small firms as those with annual sales of less than $50 million.

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