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Germany sold 4.1 billion euros ($5.3 billion) of bonds today, kicking off a competition for finance that may determine whether euro-area leaders can preserve the 13-year-old single currency.

Portugal, forced to seek an EU-led rescue in May, borrowed 1 billion euros selling bills repayable in April. Auctions from Greece, Italy and Spain follow later in the month as common currency members commence sales that may reach 262 billion euros in the first quarter and 865 billion euros in 2012, according to Deutsche Bank AG forecasts. Italy’s 10-year borrowing cost is 6.95 percent, up from a 2011 average of 5.35 percent, while Spain’s 5.42 percent is down from 5.44 percent last year.

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