Failure to pay dividends to U.S. banking companies holding Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac preferred stock could hurt the companies' equity capital ratios and force them to reduce lending nationwide by $76 billion to $114 billion, according to the American Bankers Association.

When regulators seized the government-sponsored enterprises this month, they said only a "limited number of smaller institutions" would be impacted. However, in a survey late last week of 8,000 banking companies of varying sizes, the ABA said that roughly a third of the 1,100 respondents said they held GSE preferred stock. Total industry exposure could be between $10 billion and $15 billion, ABA estimated.

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