Is First Security Corp. an acquisition target for Norwest Corp., a Minneapolis-based financial services company that has recently been expanding out of its region?

A First Security spokesman said Friday the Salt Lake-based bank holding company had no comment on the possibility.Speculation that Norwest will try to acquire First Security were sparked this week by an article in the Minneapolis Star Tribune by reporter Neal St. Anthony that attributes a 10 percent rise in First Security's stock this month to improved performance and the belief that Norwest Corp. is interested in adding First Security to its expanding portfolio.

Does the Star Tribune article have any basis in fact?

"We really don't have any comment; it was a speculative article," said Art Montgomery, vice president and manager of communications for First Security Corp.

Montgomery said he has seen articles speculating that Norwest is also interested in acquiring Los Angeles-based First Interstate Bancorp., which has major operations in Utah since it acquired the old Walker Bank & Trust Co.

"That rumor surfaced some months ago," but nothing has come of it, said Montgomery.

Montgomery said he had "no idea" whether any conversations had been held between Norwest and First Security Executives. Neither First Security Corp. chairman Spencer F. Eccles nor president and chief administrative officer Morgan Evans were available for comment by press deadlines Friday.

Norwest, said to be one of the nation's regional banking powers, has doubled in size since 1988 to $40.3 billion in assets through stock acquisitions in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa and Colorado.

While it has no banks in Utah, Norwest operates four Norwest Financial loan offices in Salt Lake, Murray, West Valley City and Bountiful, and another subsidiary, Norwest Mortgage Inc., is in Midvale.

But while Norwest has been expanding - St. Anthony said its largest acquisition was made last April in a $512 million stock swap for United Banks of Colorado - First Security hasn't been standing still.

It acquired seven other financial institutions in 1990 and four more last year. Two more are pending. First Security, the largest bank headquartered in the state, has four banks in 196 offices spread over four states. Last June it announced a three-for-two split of its common stock.

According to the Star Tribune, Utah is not included in the 18-state Minnesota interstate banking region but, at the request of bankers, the state's Legislature has, in recent years, added Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, Colorado and Illinois.

The article quotes Piper Jaffray & Hopwood analyst Steve Schroll as saying he had not heard any speculation of Norwest acquiring First Security but noted that the Rocky Mountain region is recovering and has significant earnings growth potential.

"Strategically, I can make sense of why they might be interested. The likelihood of a deal . . . I don't know," Schroll is quoted.