The Federal Reserve Board, in a move to make credit more readily available, said it was reducing the requirements for banks to hold a certain percentage of their deposits as reserves.

The central bank said it was cutting the 3 percent reserve requirement on non-personal time deposits with maturities of less than 18 months, which are mostly corporate certificates of deposit, and that a reserve requirement on Eurocurrency liabilities will be eliminated."Both requirements will be lowered to zero over coming weeks," the Fed said in a statement.

The changes are the first in reserve requirements since 1983.

Until now, banks have been required to hold reserves equal to 12 percent of their checking deposits and 3 percent of certain certificates of deposit.

The Fed said the 3 percent requirement put deposit-taking institutions at a disadvantage against other lenders.

It also noted that tight lending standards were slowing growth.

"The Board took action at this time also in response to mounting evidence that commercial banks have been tightening their standards of creditworthiness and the terms and conditions for many types of loans," the Fed said.

"While much of this tightening has been welcome from a safety and soundness standpoint, it has in recent months begun to exert a contractionary influence on the economy," the Fed said.