Bankers on the rubber-chicken circuit sought to lower expectations for lending in the first quarter, and preliminary data bears them out.

Commercial loan growth at domestically chartered banks slipped after a blowout fourth quarter, and total lending contracted at a 3.7% annual rate, according to weekly reports published by the Federal Reserve. Executives said credit demand is still soft, and expressed wariness about fighting against intensifying competition. (The following graphic shows volume data for major balance sheet categories; interactive controls are described in the captions. Text continues below.)

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