NationsBank "is increasingly a power to be reckoned with," and capital market activities are providing much of the muscle, said Nancy A. Bush of Brown Brothers, Harriman & Co.

The Charlotte, N.C., banking company "clearly aims to be big and to compete with bulge-bracket firms" in investment banking and securities activities, Ms. Bush said.

On Thursday, its shares rose 62.5 cents, to $63.5625, after NationsBank executives spoke at a conference in Florida for banking analysts. Chase Manhattan Corp., Fleet Financial Group, KeyCorp, and Norwest Corp., among others, also reported about various business segments.

Overall, Thursday's market activity was jumpy, with stocks opening higher, after rallies in Asian markets, then pulling back on lingering fears about the domestic economy and 1998 profits.

The Standard & Poor's bank index rose 0.33%, and the Dow Jones industrial average dropped 0.15%. The Nasdaq bank index gained 0.31%, and the S&P 500 was down 0.33%

Ms. Bush reiterated her "buy" recommendation for NationsBank Thursday, calling the company's global finance unit, headed by chief financial officer James Hance, "probably the most dynamic group of businesses in NationsBank's stable."

The unit's revenues last year rose 28%, to $2.8 billion, while earnings were up 30%, to $826 million.

Among burgeoning operations, the Montgomery Securities business-a controversial acquisition last year-did very well in 1997 and should have another good year in 1998, Ms. Bush said.

She also singled out the syndications business as probably the fastest- growing unit in the capital markets group, with revenues up 50% a year since 1990, and 1997 fees up 71%, to $185 million. NationsBank also signaled its strength by posting significant gains in mergers and acquisitions, risk management, and cash management operations.

From a marketing and service standpoint, NationsBank appears well positioned, especially for serving midsize companies. "The strategy of being a 'one-stop shop' is apparently having great results, with NationsBank now claiming a No. 1 position as the dominant middle-market bank" in the United States, Ms. Bush said.

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