NEW YORK (AP) _ Bank of Montreal began listing its shares Thursday on the New York Stock Exchange, the first Canadian bank to do so.

Having U.S.-listed stock will make it easier for the bank to expand its American operations through acquisitions, said Matthew W. Barrett, chairman of Canada's fourth largest banking company. Banks usually buy other banks with their stock, as opposed to cash.

The shares finished trading at $18.50 on the New York Stock Exchange. The bank's Canadian shares closed at $18.50 Wednesday on the Toronto Stock Exchange.

U.S. investors own 10 percent of the Toronto-listed stock, said Barrett.

Bank of Montreal is the only Canadian bank to have substantial consumer and business banking operations on both sides of the U.S.-Canadian border.

The bank owns Chicago-based Harris Bankcorp Inc. It plans to earn half of its total profits from Harris Bank by the year 2000, Barrett said. Bank of Montreal currently derives 25 percent of its profits, which totaled $709 million last year, from Harris.

Barrett said Bank of Montreal wants to acquire banks in Chicago in order to triple Harris' 75 branches and more than double its customer base to 1 million from 400,000.

After that, the bank will look for acquisitions in other Midwestern states, such as Wisconsin and Indiana, he said.

Harris recently acquired a 30-branch bank in the Chicago suburbs.

The bank also plans to expand its investment banking activities in the United States. Bank of Montreal provides loans and advisory services to small and medium-sized companies through Harris Bank and finances large corporations through its own offices and through its Harris Nesbitt Thomson Securities Inc. subsidiary.

The unit has 200 investment bankers in the U.S., and plans to hire another 20 to 30 in the coming months. The company will focus on investment management for institutions, but may acquire a retail brokerage in a few years to offer stock trading and advise to consumers, Bank of Montreal officials said.

With the passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement, the bank will also expand its investment banking business in Mexico, where it operates a representative office, said Barrett.

Bank of Montreal has $101 billion in assets and 1,200 branches in Canada.