The U.S. central bank, the Federal Reserve, and other banking regulators have issued a joint statement urging lenders to work with homeowners who are at risk of defaulting on their loans and losing their homes.

That statement, issued Tuesday, is aimed mostly at companies that collect on sub-prime loans - which are given to people with poor credit history - and on adjustable rate loans.

Bank regulators are urging those companies to help at-risk borrowers work out new payment agreements, to prevent them from losing their homes.

Policy makers are concerned that the number of foreclosures will rise next year, when lenders are scheduled to increase the monthly payments due on about two million mortgages.

Tuesday's guidelines follow President Bush's announcement last week of new measures to prevent mortgage defaults and help the slumping housing industry, which has been adversely affected by a rising number of bad loans.

Some information for this report provided by AP and AFP.