Federal banking regulators on Friday issued supplementary guidance about year-2000 testing.

Using a question-and-answer format, the supervisory letter clarified statements made in an April letter by the interagency Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council.

The guidance comes as banks approach a critical deadline in the testing phase. By Tuesday, regulators said, financial institutions should have begun testing their internal "mission-critical" systems, including those purchased from software vendors.

In the "testing" phase, a bank simulates date changes on its repaired computers and embedded chips to see if the systems work properly. The exam council estimated this phase will account for at least half of the time, cost, and personnel each bank spends to protect against the year-2000 glitch.

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