A flurry of mergers and stakeouts of upper New England community banks by the region's largest institutions has sparked a speculative frenzy in the stock of independent institutions in New York.

"The regionals and investors, I think, are looking around and asking: Who's left if you want to be a buyer?" said First Albany Corp. bank analyst Kevin T. Timmons. "If you want to expand in New York, you have to buy them sooner because you might not be able to buy them later."

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