First Merchants Co. (NASDAQ:FRME) Sees Significant Increase in Short Interest

First Merchants Co. (NASDAQ:FRME) was the recipient of a significant increase in short interest during the month of June. As of June 15th, there was short interest totalling 1,263,100 shares, an increase of 8.4% from the May 15th total of 1,164,800 shares. Currently, 2.6% of the shares of the stock are short sold. Based on an average daily trading volume, of 222,500 shares, the short-interest ratio is presently 5.7 days.

Several equities research analysts recently weighed in on FRME shares. Piper Jaffray Companies set a $44.00 price target on shares of First Merchants and gave the stock a “buy” rating in a research report on Wednesday, April 10th. BidaskClub raised shares of YRC Worldwide from a “hold” rating to a “buy” rating in a research note on Saturday, April 13th. Raymond James reaffirmed a “buy” rating on shares of First Quantum Minerals in a research note on Monday, April 8th. Zacks Investment Research lowered shares of General Finance from a “buy” rating to a “hold” rating in a research note on Monday, July 15th. Finally, Hovde Group initiated coverage on shares of First Merchants in a research note on Wednesday, May 22nd. They set a “market perform” rating and a $39.00 price objective for the company. Two research analysts have rated the stock with a sell rating, two have assigned a hold rating and four have given a buy rating to the company’s stock. The stock presently has an average rating of “Hold” and an average target price of $43.33.

Shares of FRME traded down $0.11 during trading hours on Friday, reaching $37.54. 183,658 shares of the company traded hands, compared to its average volume of 306,202. First Merchants has a 12-month low of $32.49 and a 12-month high of $50.44. The stock has a fifty day moving average of $36.46. The stock has a market capitalization of $1.86 billion, a price-to-earnings ratio of 11.66, a price-to-earnings-growth ratio of 1.62 and a beta of 1.04. The company has a current ratio of 0.91, a quick ratio of 0.91 and a debt-to-equity ratio of 0.33.

First Merchants (NASDAQ:FRME) last released its quarterly earnings data on Thursday, April 25th. The bank reported $0.78 earnings per share for the quarter, missing the Zacks’ consensus estimate of $0.80 by ($0.02). First Merchants had a return on equity of 11.59% and a net margin of 32.34%. The business had revenue of $103.58 million during the quarter, compared to analysts’ expectations of $107.28 million. On average, equities analysts expect that First Merchants will post 3.31 earnings per share for the current year.

The company also recently announced a quarterly dividend, which was paid on Friday, June 21st. Shareholders of record on Monday, May 20th were issued a $0.26 dividend. The ex-dividend date of this dividend was Friday, May 17th. This is an increase from First Merchants’s previous quarterly dividend of $0.22. This represents a $1.04 dividend on an annualized basis and a yield of 2.77%. First Merchants’s payout ratio is currently 32.30%.

In other news, Director Charles E. Schalliol sold 4,680 shares of First Merchants stock in a transaction that occurred on Tuesday, June 18th. The shares were sold at an average price of $36.26, for a total transaction of $169,696.80. The transaction was disclosed in a legal filing with the SEC, which is available at this hyperlink. In the last quarter, insiders have bought 76 shares of company stock worth $2,656. Company insiders own 1.30% of the company’s stock.

Institutional investors have recently made changes to their positions in the business. Two Sigma Investments LP bought a new position in First Merchants in the fourth quarter worth about $977,000. Rhumbline Advisers raised its holdings in First Merchants by 35.1% in the fourth quarter. Rhumbline Advisers now owns 83,377 shares of the bank’s stock worth $2,857,000 after purchasing an additional 21,676 shares in the last quarter. Eagle Asset Management Inc. raised its holdings in First Merchants by 10.0% in the fourth quarter. Eagle Asset Management Inc. now owns 284,244 shares of the bank’s stock worth $9,741,000 after purchasing an additional 25,940 shares in the last quarter. Victory Capital Management Inc. raised its holdings in First Merchants by 4.1% in the fourth quarter. Victory Capital Management Inc. now owns 13,675 shares of the bank’s stock worth $469,000 after purchasing an additional 533 shares in the last quarter. Finally, Norges Bank bought a new position in First Merchants in the fourth quarter worth about $16,402,000. Institutional investors and hedge funds own 73.38% of the company’s stock.

About First Merchants

First Merchants Corporation operates as the financial holding company for First Merchants Bank that provides community banking services. It accepts time, savings, and demand deposits; and provides consumer, commercial, agri-business, and real estate mortgage loans, as well as rents safe deposit facilities.

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