Bank technology stocks continued their June rally last week, as investors became more optimistic that the Federal Reserve will cut interest rates later this year.

Unemployment claims rose to their highest levels since early last year, the Labor Department said in its latest weekly report released Thursday, giving investors reason to believe the central bank will ease rates to stave off a recession.

Technology issues also continued on their recent torrid pace, particularly those trading on Nasdaq, factors that helped lift publicly held financial technology firms.

Software firm Jack Henry & Associates announced last week that it has signed a letter of intent to purchase Broadway & Seymour Inc.'s community bank software business for about $12 million.

Executives at Monett, Mo.-based Jack Henry, one of the largest purveyors of core accounting systems to banks with assets less than $2 billion, said the deal will add 340 customers who now use Charlotte, N.C.-based Broadway & Seymour's Liberty system.

About 150 Broadway and Seymour employees will join Jack Henry as part of the deal, officials said.

Both companies described the deal as a merger, because the purchase price includes fees paid to Broadway & Seymour for certain marketing and distribution rights, as well as management services to be rendered over the next 12 months.

The deal is expected to close by June 30, Jack Henry officials said.

Jack Henry's common stock closed Friday at $13.875 a share, up TK for the week.

Broadway & Seymour's common stock closed at $20.675 a share Friday, down TK for the week.

First Data Corp. and Banc One Corp. announced last Tuesday that they have formed a joint venture that will expand on an existing arrangement with the Columbus, Ohio-based bank's merchant processing unit and First Data's electronic funds services subsidiary.

Under the agreement, Banc One and First Data will contribute merchant contracts to the venture in exchange for a 50% ownership stake in the new company. Both companies will provide marketing and sales staff for the venture.

Hackensack, N.J.-based First Data's common stock closed at $56.675 a share Friday, up TK for the week.

Bank software firm Hogan Systems Inc. announced an expansion of the capability of its recently released branch automation and retail delivery systems to include Microsoft Corp.'s Windows NT Server network operating system.

Dallas-based Hogan's common stock closed at $10.675 a share Friday, up TK for the week.

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