Bank technology stocks advanced slightly last week, in lockstep with a bull market and despite economic data that renewed investors' concerns about impending interest rate hikes.
The Labor Department said Friday that 262,000 new jobs were added to the economy in December - about 70,000 more than analysts expected. U.S. stocks fell abruptly on the inflationary news but then managed a dramatic turnaround after a wave of broad-based optimism over corporate earnings spread throughout the market.
Technology indexes reached record highs for the week. Goldman Sachs & Co.'s composite technology index, which lists many bank technology firms, gained 3.88 points to close at 123.26. The Nasdaq composite index rose 21.3 points to close at 1,332. The Dow Jones industrial average broke through the 6,700 barrier, and gained 159.7 points to close at 6,703.79.
In bank technology stocks, Harbinger Corp. shares jumped after the company announced a merger with SupplyTech Inc., an Ann Arbor, Mich.-based developer of electronic commerce software.
Harbinger, based in Atlanta, operates a network for electronic data interchange used by banks and other corporations.
The acquisition, valued at $44 million, involved a swap of 1.6 million shares of Harbinger common stock for the outstanding shares of SupplyTech.
C. Tycho Howle, chairman and chief executive officer of Harbinger, called SupplyTech a "pioneer in EDI software." He predicted about 400,000 to 500,000 businesses will begin using EDI and electronic commerce software within a few years.
The deal for SupplyTech is Harbinger's seventh acquisition in two years, Mr. Howle said. Harbinger's sales grew 70% in 1995, and Mr. Howle estimated 1996's sales growth at 80%.
Wall Street applauded the deal.
"The match is quite good," said Steven J. Shook, analyst at Interstate- Johnson Lane, Charlotte, N.C. "It could prove to be a good deal for both companies."
He said the merger will boost Harbinger's annual earnings per share by about 3 cents, to 80 cents, and probably add 10 cents per share in 1998.
Harbinger's stock price rose $7.375 for the week, closing Friday at $35.
In other news, Behind the Numbers, a Dallas-based newsletter aimed at short-sellers, issued a public warning last week to investors regarding the growth of Affiliated Computer Services Inc.
The newsletter said Affiliated's sales growth of more than 60% in the quarter ending Sept. 30 was misleading. The company's sales actually grew about 17% in the quarter, Behind the Numbers said.
It added that the data processing outsourcer's growth in 1996 of less than 8% "hardly justifies the company's premium price to earnings ratio of 36."
Officials with Behind the Numbers were unavailable for further comment, but Affiliated Computer strongly disagreed with the content of the article and stood behind its numbers.
Mark Price, Affiliated's chief financial officer, noted that San Francisco-based analyst firm Hambrecht & Quist stated in a recent report that Behind the Numbers' claims were "without merit."
Affiliated Computer's shares were off 37.5 cents for the week, closing Friday at $29.25.