Mortgage lending rose at 12 of the 18 largest US residential mortgage lenders, according to a report released Friday by the US Treasury Department. The median change at these banks was an 11% increase from February. "First mortgage originations rose from February to March as low interest rates sustained growth in mortgage refinancing and home purchases," Treasury officials said in a media statement. New lending among the top 21 banks that received funds through the Capital Purchase Program (CPP) rose 27% -- about $63bn -- in all loan categories from February to March. Home purchase mortgages rose a median 38% while mortgages originated for refinance rose a median 6% at all firms in March. Treasury attributed this gain to two factors: the three additional business days in March for a total 22 days over February's 19 days, and a normal seasonal pattern of rising loan volume at quarter-end. Wells Fargo (WFC) in March posted $31.95bn in refinance mortgage origination and $8.25bn in purchase mortgage origination. Bank of America (BAC) posted $24.68bn in refinance and $8.97bn in purchase mortgage origination. JP Morgan Chase (JPM) originated $12.09bn in refi and $3.58bn in purchase origination. Citigroup (C) posted $1.98bn in refi and $405m in purchase origination. Despite the strong residential mortgage originations, commercial mortgage activity continued to lag in March. "In commercial real estate (CRE), new loan demand remains low due to the lack of new construction activity," Treasury officials said in a media statement. "Real estate developers are reluctant to begin new projects or purchase existing projects under current poor economic conditions, which include a rising supply of office space, as firms downsize and vacancies rise." The monthly report studies the 21 top aid recipients through the CPP vehicle of the Troubled Asset Relief Program, together accounting for $4.4trn in outstanding loans as of year-end '08 -- more than half the outstanding loans in all depository institutions. Treasury reported the outstanding loan balances among these firms slipped 1% in March as borrowers paid down debt. Write to Diana Golobay. Disclosure: The author held no relevant investment positions when this story was published. Indirect holdings may exist via mutual fund investments.