) -- Shares of

Regions Financial

(RF) - Get Report


BankAtlantic Bancorp

(BBX) - Get Report

surged in morning trading on speculation that

PNC Financial Services

(PNC) - Get Report

was considering a purchase in Florida.

PNC is looking to expand in Florida and is currently in "due diligence" with Regions, according to the

South Florida Business Journal

, citing two banking industry sources.

PNC and Regions spokesmen did not immediately return calls for comment.

PNC Chief Executive James Rohr


Business Journal

also said that PNC was considering an acquisition of BankAtlantic of Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

Regions Financial stock surged roughly 6% before the market opened on very strong volume. The stock more recently was rising 3.2% to $6.40 with more than 27 million shares traded in the first hour of the trading day. Regions' daily volume averages about 26 million shares, based on a trailing three-month average.

BankAtlantic shares were rising 22 cents or 26% to $1.08. The bank's stock also had stronger than usual volume of nearly 1 million shares.

Shares of other regional bank stocks including

Fifth Third Bancorp

(FITB) - Get Report



(KEY) - Get Report



(SNV) - Get Report

were also rising on Wednesday.

PNC shares were falling 0.6% to $60.07.

PNC has limited exposure to Florida through its acquisition of National City in 2008, which had been crippled from subprime lending and overall housing malaise in its home market of the Midwest and has smaller presence in troubled Florida.

PNC's interest in expanding should not come as a surprise, given its interest in expanding market share. The $260 billion-asset bank is also one of the strongest large-cap regional banks, making it through the housing crisis relatively intact, despite its acquisition of troubled Nat City.

Analysts have named large regional banks like PNC,

U.S. Bancorp

(USB) - Get Report



(BBT) - Get Report

as the next wave of consolidators since the largest banks are coming close to deposit caps.

That being said, PNC's CEO James Rohr tampered M&A expectations during a recent presentation to investors.

Rohr said acquisitions that are appealing in the marketplace are "relatively small," during the Goldman Sachs financial services conference last week.

"When we think of how much capital we are generating ...

it's hard to imagine there is much in the way of M&A opportunities that would keep us in the way" of being well capitalized," Rohr said.

-- Written by Laurie Kulikowski in New York.

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Laurie Kulikowski


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