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The first offering Dec. 21 attracted 523 banks to borrow $657.9 billion and helped ease the eurozone debt crisis because banks used some of the money to buy government bonds. That helped lower the borrowing costs of heavily indebted countries such as Italy and Spain. How the banks deploy this money is an open question, although the European Central Bank enticed smaller banks to participate in the hope that they would lend to smaller businesses and boost the eurozone economy.


Microsoft releases test version of Windows 8

BARCELONA | Microsoft Corp. on Wednesday let consumers start trying out its upcoming touch-based Windows 8 operating system, which aims to power a new wave of computer tablets and traditional PCs designed to counter Apple Inc.’s big gains in the market through its Macs and iPads.

The test “beta” version of the revamped system was introduced at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, the world’s largest cellphone trade show, and borrows some of the look of Microsoft’s Windows Phone 7 software for Windows 8.

Windows 8 doesn’t have the traditional “Start” menu, and applications are spread across a mosaic of tiles in a design Microsoft calls “Metro.” Executives said it powers up on PCs in eight seconds, much faster than the previous version. The tiles, which resemble road signs, can be navigated with a finger swipe on the screen or with a keyboard and mouse.

But those testing out the new operating system won’t be able to try out the finger swiping unless they already have systems enabled for touch use, and the system isn’t expected to make its official debut until September or October.

• From wire dispatches and staff reports.