AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) — Maine banking regulators say home foreclosures in the state are continuing to increase. But they also report a substantial increase in first-time mortgages.

Superintendent Lloyd LaFountain of the Bureau of Financial Institutions said Monday that fourth quarter 2009 data from state-chartered banks shows one loan for every 280 mortgages was in process of foreclosure. That continues an upward trend that began in 2006.

Officials say that in general, foreclosure activity at Maine banks and credit unions appears to be lower than in many other states and poses no threat to the stability of Maine-chartered financial institutions.

Meanwhile, the number of new first mortgage loans initiated during 2009 increased 56 percent compared with 2008. LaFountain called that “encouraging and welcomed news.”