First Merchants Co. (FRME) Short Interest Up 30.0% in December

First Merchants Co. (NASDAQ:FRME) was the target of a large increase in short interest in December. As of December 29th, there was short interest totalling 710,694 shares, an increase of 30.0% from the December 15th total of 546,574 shares. Currently, 1.5% of the company’s stock are short sold. Based on an average daily volume of 225,895 shares, the short-interest ratio is currently 3.1 days.

A number of equities research analysts have weighed in on FRME shares. Piper Jaffray Companies reaffirmed a “neutral” rating and set a $46.00 target price on shares of First Merchants in a research report on Friday, October 6th. Keefe, Bruyette & Woods reissued a “buy” rating and issued a $47.00 price target on shares of First Merchants in a research report on Sunday, October 29th. Zacks Investment Research lowered First Merchants from a “buy” rating to a “hold” rating in a research report on Monday, October 2nd. ValuEngine raised First Merchants from a “hold” rating to a “buy” rating in a research report on Sunday, December 31st. Finally, BidaskClub lowered First Merchants from a “hold” rating to a “sell” rating in a research report on Thursday, January 4th. Two analysts have rated the stock with a hold rating and three have assigned a buy rating to the stock. The stock currently has an average rating of “Buy” and a consensus price target of $47.33.

First Merchants (NASDAQ:FRME) opened at $44.20 on Friday. The company has a market capitalization of $2,156.88, a price-to-earnings ratio of 20.28, a PEG ratio of 2.24 and a beta of 0.91. The company has a debt-to-equity ratio of 0.43, a current ratio of 0.93 and a quick ratio of 0.93. First Merchants has a 1 year low of $35.26 and a 1 year high of $45.42.

First Merchants (NASDAQ:FRME) last released its quarterly earnings results on Thursday, October 26th. The bank reported $0.50 EPS for the quarter, missing the Thomson Reuters’ consensus estimate of $0.55 by ($0.05). The company had revenue of $93.09 million during the quarter, compared to the consensus estimate of $97.45 million. First Merchants had a return on equity of 9.56% and a net margin of 26.28%. research analysts anticipate that First Merchants will post 2.26 earnings per share for the current year.

The business also recently declared a quarterly dividend, which was paid on Friday, December 15th. Stockholders of record on Friday, December 1st were given a $0.18 dividend. This represents a $0.72 annualized dividend and a dividend yield of 1.63%. The ex-dividend date of this dividend was Thursday, November 30th. First Merchants’s payout ratio is 33.03%.

In other First Merchants news, insider Mark K. Hardwick sold 4,301 shares of First Merchants stock in a transaction on Tuesday, November 7th. The stock was sold at an average price of $42.61, for a total transaction of $183,265.61. The sale was disclosed in a document filed with the Securities & Exchange Commission, which can be accessed through the SEC website. Also, President Michael C. Rechin sold 5,332 shares of First Merchants stock in a transaction on Tuesday, November 21st. The shares were sold at an average price of $41.41, for a total value of $220,798.12. The disclosure for this sale can be found here. Over the last ninety days, insiders have acquired 5,200 shares of company stock valued at $223,978. 1.41% of the stock is currently owned by corporate insiders.

Several institutional investors and hedge funds have recently added to or reduced their stakes in FRME. Advisor Group Inc. grew its stake in First Merchants by 8.3% during the 2nd quarter. Advisor Group Inc. now owns 2,981 shares of the bank’s stock worth $120,000 after buying an additional 228 shares during the last quarter. Quantbot Technologies LP grew its stake in First Merchants by 2,048.6% during the 2nd quarter. Quantbot Technologies LP now owns 3,975 shares of the bank’s stock worth $159,000 after buying an additional 3,790 shares during the last quarter. Macquarie Group Ltd. purchased a new position in First Merchants during the 3rd quarter worth $172,000. Victory Capital Management Inc. grew its stake in First Merchants by 17.6% during the 2nd quarter. Victory Capital Management Inc. now owns 5,155 shares of the bank’s stock worth $207,000 after buying an additional 771 shares during the last quarter. Finally, Amalgamated Bank grew its stake in First Merchants by 1.1% during the 2nd quarter. Amalgamated Bank now owns 5,181 shares of the bank’s stock worth $208,000 after buying an additional 58 shares during the last quarter. 69.15% of the stock is owned by hedge funds and other institutional investors.

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First Merchants Company Profile

First Merchants Corporation is a financial holding company. The Company has a bank charter, First Merchants Bank (the Bank), which is opened for business in Muncie, Indiana. It operates through community banking business segment. The Bank also operates Lafayette Bank and Trust, and First Merchants Private Wealth Advisors (each as a division of First Merchants Bank).

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