Providers of bank technology weighed in with generally good earnings reports for the most recent quarter, with most companies meeting or exceeding Wall Street's consensus earnings estimates.
The showing did not surprise market observers, who noted that strong economic conditions have affected the bank technology sector as positively as they have the markets in general.
Nonetheless Beth Marino, economic research analyst at Huntington Bancshares, Columbus, Ohio, was surprised investors were not preparing for rockier times.
She noted that Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan last week "very strongly hinted at the fact that the next Fed move was most likely to be up, and probably sooner than people think because of the wage pressures."
Gregory Gould, an analyst at Goldman, Sachs & Co., agreed the economic climate has helped bank technology stocks. But he said he expects several companies in the sector, including First Data Corp., to scale back earnings expectations this year.
Among companies announcing earnings recently, First USA Paymentech Inc. reported net income of $8.4 million, or 26 cents per share, for its second fiscal quarter, compared with net income of $4.2 million, or 17 cents per share, in the year-earlier quarter.
The company exceeded First Call's consensus estimate by a penny due to cost savings from acquisitions, Mr. Gould said.
First USA Paymentech is 57%-owned by First USA Inc., which recently announced a merger deal with Banc One Corp. The combination awaits regulatory approval.
The merged bank would be the new owner of First USA Paymentech, the third-largest processor of bank card transactions in the United States.
In other earnings news, SPS Transaction Services Inc. barely broke even in the fourth quarter, compared to income of $11.6 million in the year- earlier period.
The Riverwoods, Ill., company is a provider of private-label credit card and transaction processing services.
SPS officials said the company was hampered, in part, by high chargeoffs in its private-label credit card portfolios.
Earnings per share were flat but in line with the Wall Street consensus as published by IBES Inc. SPS earned 43 cents per share in the year-earlier period.
Other companies reporting earnings included Fiserv Inc., which reported $16.1 million of profits in the most recent quarter-a 20% improvement over the year-earlier period.
Fiserv executives said the company has hit its targeted earnings growth rate for 11 consecutive years.
The bank outsourcing firm earned 35 cents per share, which met First Call's estimate.
CFI Proservices Inc., a Portland, Ore., developer of compliance and home banking software, reported net income of $1.7 million, or 34 cents per share, a 49% increase over the same quarter last year.
Its earnings per share exceeded consensus estimates by 2 cents.