Bank technology stocks were mixed last week, as investors and traders looked forward to the frenzied activity expected in the first quarter.

Over the next few months, Wall Street expects healthy fourth-quarter earnings announcements for many financial services companies.

For instance, Telecheck Services, the world's largest check acceptance company, is expected to benefit from a robust holiday shopping season.

Telecheck, a unit of Hackensack, N.J.-based First Data Corp., reported that retail sales for the first 24 days of the holiday shopping season increased about 5.7%, compared to the year-earlier period.

National Data Corp.'s credit card processing facilities also reported higher payment volume. The Atlanta-based company said it processed 14.5 million transactions on Dec. 23, compared to 11.5 million on that day last year.

Though trading was light on most issues, investors generally were heartened by a Commerce Department report that suggested no impending interest rate hikes.

The news quelled short-term inflation fears, and lead to a rally in the bond market.

Blue chip issues also benefited, and the Dow Jones industrial average rose another 76.51 points for the week, closing at 6,560.91, a new high.

But despite moves in the general market, technology issues did not fare as well after Computer Associates International Inc. announced Friday that third-quarter revenues will be about 17% below Wall Street expectations.

Computer Associates, based in Islandia, N.Y., is the world's third- largest software firm. It was expected to earn $1.2 billion for the quarter. Computer Associates' stock price fell $13 Friday to close at $48.75.

The company specializes in software applications for large computer networks, listing many banks as customers.

Officials at Computer Associates attributed the current woes to poor sales in the Europe, which usually accounts for about one-third of the company's revenues.

The announcement and the accompanying 21% plunge in the company's stock affected several technology-oriented indexes, including Goldman Sachs & Co.'s index of U.S.-traded technology firms.

For the week, Goldman Sachs' index, which lists many banking technology providers, was down 0.3%. Meanwhile, the Nasdaq Composite edged up 2.96 points to close at 1,291.56.

In news affecting banking technology providers, Electronic Data Systems Corp. and Checkfree Corp. announced plans to develop jointly a service bureau for automatic clearing house processing.

The alliance is aimed at taking advantage of bankers' receptiveness to outsourcing back office functions such as ACH processing.

The proposed service could be especially attractive to smaller institutions, many of whom cannot afford to operate in-house systems for handling large ACH payment volume, said Lynn Busing, an executive vice president at Checkfree.

Checkfree stock closed at $17, up $2.1875, while EDS closed at $44.25, a gain of 25 cents.

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