Four major commercial banks, including the nation's largest, Citibank, lowered their prime lending rates a half percentage point Monday to 10.5 percent. First Bank of Chicago was the first to take the step shortly before the opening of the stock market, with Chemical Bank, Continental Bank, and Citibank quickly joining in.

The reduction follows similar cuts by San Francisco-based Bank of America on Friday and Chase Manhattan Bank three weeks ago.

Monday's decrease was widely expected due to signs that the Federal Reserve Board is seeking looser credit in response to slower economic growth.

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