Short Interest in First Financial Bancorp (NASDAQ:FFBC) Expands By 11.5%

First Financial Bancorp (NASDAQ:FFBC) was the recipient of a significant increase in short interest in the month of December. As of December 31st, there was short interest totalling 4,350,000 shares, an increase of 11.5% from the December 15th total of 3,900,000 shares. Based on an average daily volume of 374,900 shares, the days-to-cover ratio is presently 11.6 days. Approximately 4.5% of the shares of the company are sold short.

Several equities research analysts have issued reports on FFBC shares. BidaskClub downgraded shares of First Financial Bancorp from a “hold” rating to a “sell” rating in a research report on Tuesday. Zacks Investment Research raised First Financial Bancorp from a “hold” rating to a “buy” rating and set a $28.00 target price on the stock in a research report on Thursday, January 9th. ValuEngine upgraded First Financial Bancorp from a “sell” rating to a “hold” rating in a research note on Wednesday, October 30th. Finally, Royal Bank of Canada set a $24.00 price target on First Financial Bancorp and gave the stock a “hold” rating in a report on Monday, October 21st. One research analyst has rated the stock with a sell rating, four have given a hold rating and two have given a buy rating to the company’s stock. The stock presently has an average rating of “Hold” and an average price target of $28.20.

Shares of FFBC stock traded up $0.44 on Thursday, hitting $25.27. The company’s stock had a trading volume of 11,588 shares, compared to its average volume of 347,303. First Financial Bancorp has a fifty-two week low of $22.07 and a fifty-two week high of $28.59. The company has a market capitalization of $2.48 billion, a PE ratio of 11.08 and a beta of 1.24. The stock’s 50 day moving average is $25.09 and its 200-day moving average is $24.33. The company has a debt-to-equity ratio of 0.72, a quick ratio of 0.95 and a current ratio of 0.96.

First Financial Bancorp (NASDAQ:FFBC) last issued its quarterly earnings data on Thursday, October 17th. The bank reported $0.56 earnings per share for the quarter, topping the consensus estimate of $0.54 by $0.02. The business had revenue of $154.68 million during the quarter, compared to analysts’ expectations of $150.98 million. First Financial Bancorp had a net margin of 27.72% and a return on equity of 10.13%. During the same quarter in the previous year, the company earned $0.58 EPS. On average, research analysts forecast that First Financial Bancorp will post 2.14 earnings per share for the current year.

In other First Financial Bancorp news, Chairman Claude E. Davis sold 25,000 shares of the company’s stock in a transaction on Monday, December 9th. The shares were sold at an average price of $24.52, for a total value of $613,000.00. Following the transaction, the chairman now directly owns 304,860 shares in the company, valued at $7,475,167.20. The transaction was disclosed in a filing with the SEC, which is available through the SEC website. Insiders own 2.00% of the company’s stock.

Several large investors have recently made changes to their positions in the business. BlackRock Inc. boosted its holdings in shares of First Financial Bancorp by 1.5% in the 2nd quarter. BlackRock Inc. now owns 14,530,060 shares of the bank’s stock valued at $351,917,000 after purchasing an additional 218,329 shares during the last quarter. Russell Investments Group Ltd. lifted its stake in First Financial Bancorp by 31.9% during the third quarter. Russell Investments Group Ltd. now owns 105,103 shares of the bank’s stock worth $2,573,000 after purchasing an additional 25,447 shares during the last quarter. Rhumbline Advisers lifted its stake in First Financial Bancorp by 6.2% during the third quarter. Rhumbline Advisers now owns 319,118 shares of the bank’s stock worth $7,810,000 after purchasing an additional 18,722 shares during the last quarter. HighTower Advisors LLC boosted its holdings in shares of First Financial Bancorp by 0.3% in the 2nd quarter. HighTower Advisors LLC now owns 203,346 shares of the bank’s stock valued at $4,923,000 after purchasing an additional 536 shares in the last quarter. Finally, BBVA USA Bancshares Inc. boosted its holdings in shares of First Financial Bancorp by 18.2% in the 3rd quarter. BBVA USA Bancshares Inc. now owns 19,792 shares of the bank’s stock valued at $485,000 after purchasing an additional 3,045 shares in the last quarter. Hedge funds and other institutional investors own 75.63% of the company’s stock.

About First Financial Bancorp

First Financial Bancorp. operates as the bank holding company for First Financial Bank that provides commercial banking and related services to individuals and businesses in Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky, and Illinois. The company accepts various deposit products, such as interest-bearing and noninterest-bearing accounts, time deposits, and cash management services for commercial customers.

Further Reading: What is a Buy-Side Analyst?

Receive News & Ratings for First Financial Bancorp Daily - Enter your email address below to receive a concise daily summary of the latest news and analysts' ratings for First Financial Bancorp and related companies with MarketBeat.com's FREE daily email newsletter.