The credit crisis has been squeezing consumers, businesses and the economy for a year, and there are few signs of it letting up.

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The credit crisis has been squeezing consumers, businesses and the economy for a year, and there are few signs of it letting up.

It’s becoming more difficult for businesses and consumers to obtain capital despite the many regulatory measures aimed at helping.

It isn’t just a domestic problem anymore.

“Credit is the lubricant that keeps the global economy’s engine working; as the capital markets tighten and restrict the flow of capital, the global economy slows,” notes Richard Bernstein, chief investment strategist at Merrill Lynch. He doesn’t think it will end anytime soon.

In its first policy move to address the crisis, the Federal Reserve on Aug. 17, 2007, cut its discount rate on loans to banks by a half-percentage point to 5.75 percent.

In the past year, the central bank made other moves to improve the flow of borrowing and lending, which included slashing its benchmark interest rate 3.25 percentage points to 2 percent.

But U.S. banks are still tightening lending standards to both businesses and consumers, according to a recent Fed survey.

About 60 percent of domestic banks are making it harder for large and midsized companies to get commercial and industrial loans, according to the survey. On the consumer side, 75 percent of banks said they are making it tougher to get prime mortgages, while 80 percent said they tightened standards for home equity lines of credit.

The credit crisis began as falling home prices made it tough for U.S. homeowners to refinance mortgages that were about to reset to higher rates.

This led to rising delinquencies and defaults, hurting mortgage financiers Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and holders of securities backed by mortgages, such as investors and banks.

Anton Schutz, portfolio manager of the Burnham Financial Services (BURKX) and industries fund (BURFX), says home prices must stabilize before the credit market can improve. He also says a government- or private-equity infusion for Fannie and Freddie, which he expects soon, will help soothe the market.