WASHINGTON — The Federal Reserve Board had purchased more than $243.1 billion of commercial paper by Wednesday, a 67.9% boost from a week earlier and proof that the program remains popular.

While demand for the commercial paper facility continues to surge, interest in the discount window is declining. The Fed said it lent $346.5 billion on Wednesday, a 6.2% drop from a week earlier.

Lending to commercial banks was down after several consecutive weeks of new highs. The Fed distributed $108.6 billion to these institutions, off nearly 2% from a week earlier.

Lending to investment banks continued to fall, plunging 9.8% during the week, to $71.6 billion.

There were no loans to weak financial institutions and the remaining $9 million was issued to banks in rural or resort regions.

Most of the loans -- $186.1 billion - will mature within 15 days. Another $90.1 billion will come due within 16 to 90 days and $61.4 billion will be repaid in one to five years.

Fed lending against asset-backed commercial paper held by money market mutual funds also fell 11.4%, to $85.1 billion.

American International Group Inc., the insurance giant bailed out by the Fed in September, has borrowed $81.2 billion against the $123 billion pledged by the central bank.

The Fed's balance sheet continues to grow to support the liquidity programs the Fed is using to unclog funding markets. Total assets at the Fed grew 5.3%, passing the $2 trillion mark on Wednesday.

The central bank has been able to grow its balance sheet by paying higher interest on reserves financial institutions hold at the Fed. The balance of those reserves grew 18.2%, to $503.6 billion.

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