Keefe, Bruyette & Woods Inc., which began coverage of the $1 billion- asset, Minneapolis-based National City Bancorp on Wednesday, predicted the stock would rise 29% in the next 12 months.

The market did not seem much impressed.

National City shares rose 0.96%, to $19.75, and the stock's performance was a bit higher than bank stocks in general. Trading was quiet Wednesday, and no big gainers or losers emerged among bank stocks.

Joseph Roberto, a Keefe Bruyette analyst, set a "conservative" 12-month price target of $24.50 for National City shares. At that level they would trade at just more than 12 times his earnings estimate for next year.

That would be up from the company's current multiple of 9.8 times 2000 earnings.

Mr. Roberto's "attractive" rating is cautious, despite his predictions. He noted that National City "is a downtown business focused on middle-sized businesses" and that lending to such companies can be risky. The company's business lending unit makes larger and riskier loans that have led to significant swings in nonperforming assets, he said.

Most of the company's loan growth is attributed to its diversified business credit unit, which focuses on secured working capital loans.

On the plus side, National City's cost structure has steadily improved during the 1990s, with "consistently healthy" asset quality, Mr. Roberto said.

Shares of Republic Bancshares of St. Petersburg, Fla., fell 3.65%, to $16.50, as the company backed away from the merger spotlight. In February, it announced it had hired a consultant to consider the company's strategic options, including a sale. This week Republic said it would give up its search for a buyer.

The disclosure sent the stock down because there was no longer reason for a merger premium.

After the announcement, Christopher Parker of Ryan, Beck & Co. cut his target price to $17 a share, from $24, which was his estimated takeover value for the company.

Mr. Parker said Republic's earnings would be dragged down by the opening of 24 de novo branches in recent quarters. The new branches add "a murky air to the intermediate-term outlook for the company," he said.

On the plus side, according to Mr. Parker, Republic has reduced the head count in its mortgage unit to 138, from 736, as its operations slow.

Company management said its plans more expense reductions in all areas over the remainder of the year.

The Standard & Poor's bank stock index dropped 0.04% Wednesday, and the Dow Jones industrial average gained 0.47%. The Nasdaq bank index added 0.10%, and the S&P 500, 0.56%.

J.P. Morgan & Co. gained for the second straight day, up 0.65%, to $146.

Bank of America lost O.25%, to $74.9375, Chase Manhattan Corp. dropped 1.67%, to $84.625, and PNC Bank Corp. added 0.98%, to $57.875.

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