Keeping itself primed for dealmaking, Norwest Corp. has registered to issue up to 10 million new shares.

The filing with securities regulators on Thursday specified that the shares would be used for acquisitions, letting Norwest make about $400 million of deals, based on the shares' recent prices.

The total is tiny compared with other banking companies' multibillion- dollar deals, but Norwest prefers a different approach-building its empire piece by piece.

"Our bread and butter are the smaller acquisitions," said Robert Kaukol, senior counsel for the Minneapolis banking company.

Norwest has amassed its $96 billion of assets largely from buying scores of closely held banking and financial companies.

It has completed or announced more than a dozen such deals in the past two years, and filings to issue 10 million shares have been used each year to cover the deals.

Mr. Kaukol declined to discuss specific purchases that might be made under the latest 10 million-share filing. But he did point to a track record that leans toward operations where managers and directors are the prime shareholders.

With surplus stock available, instead of registering to issue shares as each deal is struck, "we're that much better positioned," Mr. Kaukol said. "It's more flexible and efficient this way."

Analysts say Norwest is certainly a master at building assets and earnings by purchasing smaller banks and finance companies.

"It's a proven strategy for them," said Katrina Blecher, a banking analyst at Gruntal & Co.

"They don't feel the need like many other large banks to strike massive deals," Ms. Blecher said.

Norwest shares were up 31.25 cents Thursday, to $40.

Bank stocks were mixed, and the broader market took a hit from slippage in computer company shares.

The Standard & Poor's bank index was off 0.15%, and the Nasdaq bank index rose 0.51%. The Dow Jones industrial average dropped 0.43%, and the S&P 500 dipped 0.39%.

Shares of Mellon Bank Corp. bounced back a bit, up 31.25 cents, to $40, after dropping Wednesday when Bank of New York Co. withdrew its unsolicited purchase offer. Bank of New York fell back 75 cents, to $60.625.

Among other gainers, Bankers Trust Corp. rose $2.75, to $133.8125; First Tennessee Corp., 87.5 cents, to $33.875; Northern Trust Corp., $1, to $72.625; and Wells Fargo & Co., $1.875, to $376.375.

First Empire State Corp. was up 50 cents, to $514.50, after completing a stock repurchase program for 303,000 shares and announcing another program that is to cover 155,000 more shares.

The banking company, with $20 billion of assets, is also changing its name to M&T Bank Corp., reflecting the name of its lead bank, and switching its shares to the New York Stock Exchange from the American Stock Exchange.

The steps, which take effect June 1, will make investors and customers more aware of operations, said Gary S. Paul, senior vice president for corporate finance.

One thing that First Empire does not anticipate is a stock split, though its shares are the highest-priced among public banking companies.

"We want investors to easily be able to see how far they've come," said Mr. Paul of shares that have appreciated from $16 in the past quarter- century.

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