Overcoming last week's jitters, bank technology stocks edged up slightly in a market that reflected the optimism surrounding the economy's short- term future.

Observers said recent gains in the general market are a result of several factors, including a "relief rally" that was spurred by the Federal Reserve's holding the line on interest rates and a strong bond market.

William Loomis, analyst at Ferris, Baker Watts Inc., Baltimore, said investors will soon be "anticipating the January Effect," which is the historical rise in small-cap stock prices.

The Dow Jones industrial average fluctuated wildly Friday, a so-called "triple witching day" when options and futures on stock indexes expire concurrently. It ended up 179.53 points, and closed at 6,484.4

The Nasdaq Composite also rose 3.6 points, to 1,288.55. And Goldman, Sachs & Co.'s composite index of U.S.-traded stocks, which lists many bank technology firms, was up another 0.8%, to close at 119.02. Goldman Sachs' index has appreciated more than 39% this year.

In other news from bank technology firms, BankAmerica Corp. spun off about 32% of its credit card processing unit in an initial public offering.

The San Francisco-based bank sold 14 million shares of BA Merchant Services Inc. in a deal led by Goldman Sachs and co-managed by Montgomery Securities Inc., San Francisco, and Salomon Brothers Inc., New York.

The stock, priced between $14 and $16 per share, opened Thursday at $17.75. It closed Friday at $17.125.

In other news, Sterling Commerce Inc. has adopted a shareholder's rights plan that aims to protect investors in the event of a hostile takeover bid.

Warner Blow, president and chief executive officer of the Dallas-based company, said there is no such pending bid for Sterling, but noted that shareholders' rights plans are rapidly becoming common practice among publicly held companies.

The plans ensure that "all stockholders receive a fair price," in the event of a takeover, he said.

Sterling sells electronic commerce software and network services to banks and other businesses. Its stock price gained $2.125 for the week to close at $34.50.

Also in the news, National Data Corp., Atlanta, reported net earnings of $9.6 million, or 34 cents per share, for the quarter ending Nov. 30.

The company's earnings were in line with a consensus estimate of Wall Street analysts, which is published by Ibes International Inc.

National Data's income rose 41%, compared with the year-earlier quarter.

The company sells data processing services and develops software for payment and health care systems. Its shares rose $1.75 last week to close Friday at $42.75.

In addition, Credit Management Solutions Inc. went public with 2.6 million shares on Wednesday.

Friedman, Billings, Ramsey & Co., Arlington, Va., led the initial public offering. The stock, priced between $11 and $13 per share, closed Friday at $13.5.

Credit Management, based in Columbia, Md., sells consumer and small- business credit analysis software to banks and other finance companies.

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