Kenneth D. Lewis, Bank of America Corp.'s chairman and chief executive officer, used his annual letter to shareholders to tout his company's viability and its continued willingness to lend.

Lewis wrote in the letter, dated March 9, that the $2.5 trillion-asset Charlotte company made more than $600 billion of credit available to consumers, small businesses, and large corporations last year.

B of A did not provide comparable figures for a year earlier, but Lewis acknowledged that the volume was off compared with the "height of the boom" just a few years ago.

"Lending volume is not what it was … and it shouldn't be," Lewis wrote. "We're in a recession, which means that demand for credit is lower, and credit standards are tighter. But that doesn't mean 'banks aren't lending.' In fact, we're out there in the marketplace making every good loan we can, growing our relationships with existing customers and creating new ones."

Last year Bank of America's loan total rose 6.3% from 2007, to $931.5 billion, though the increase would take into account acquisitions such as Countrywide Financial Corp.

In January, Lewis said that Bank of America originated $115 billion of loans in the fourth quarter. In an interview with the Charlotte Observer this week, he said the company originated another $48 billion in January.

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