First Merchants Co. (NASDAQ:FRME) Short Interest Update

First Merchants Co. (NASDAQ:FRME) was the target of a large decline in short interest in July. As of July 31st, there was short interest totalling 1,246,400 shares, a decline of 6.5% from the June 30th total of 1,332,400 shares. Approximately 2.5% of the shares of the stock are short sold. Based on an average trading volume of 266,100 shares, the short-interest ratio is currently 4.7 days.

FRME has been the topic of a number of recent analyst reports. ValuEngine upgraded shares of First Merchants from a “sell” rating to a “hold” rating in a research report on Thursday, August 1st. Stephens upgraded shares of First Merchants from an “equal weight” rating to an “overweight” rating and set a $44.00 price target on the stock in a research report on Tuesday, July 9th. Hovde Group initiated coverage on shares of First Merchants in a research report on Wednesday, May 22nd. They issued a “market perform” rating and a $39.00 price target on the stock. Finally, Zacks Investment Research upgraded shares of First Merchants from a “sell” rating to a “hold” rating in a research report on Wednesday, July 24th. Four analysts have rated the stock with a hold rating and four have given a buy rating to the company. The stock has a consensus rating of “Buy” and an average price target of $43.33.

In other news, Director Charles E. Schalliol sold 4,680 shares of First Merchants stock in a transaction dated Tuesday, June 18th. The shares were sold at an average price of $36.26, for a total transaction of $169,696.80. The sale was disclosed in a document filed with the SEC, which is available through the SEC website. Over the last quarter, insiders have bought 105 shares of company stock worth $3,803. 1.30% of the stock is owned by company insiders.

Hedge funds and other institutional investors have recently made changes to their positions in the business. Captrust Financial Advisors raised its stake in shares of First Merchants by 148.5% in the second quarter. Captrust Financial Advisors now owns 656 shares of the bank’s stock worth $25,000 after acquiring an additional 392 shares during the last quarter. Strs Ohio bought a new position in shares of First Merchants in the first quarter worth about $25,000. Denali Advisors LLC bought a new position in shares of First Merchants in the second quarter worth about $125,000. Bank of Montreal Can raised its stake in shares of First Merchants by 106.4% in the first quarter. Bank of Montreal Can now owns 3,953 shares of the bank’s stock worth $146,000 after acquiring an additional 2,038 shares during the last quarter. Finally, Zurcher Kantonalbank Zurich Cantonalbank raised its stake in shares of First Merchants by 38.7% in the second quarter. Zurcher Kantonalbank Zurich Cantonalbank now owns 3,991 shares of the bank’s stock worth $151,000 after acquiring an additional 1,114 shares during the last quarter. 73.70% of the stock is owned by institutional investors.

NASDAQ:FRME traded up $0.99 on Friday, reaching $36.55. The stock had a trading volume of 119,172 shares, compared to its average volume of 211,760. The company has a market capitalization of $1.84 billion, a P/E ratio of 11.35, a price-to-earnings-growth ratio of 1.63 and a beta of 1.03. First Merchants has a 1-year low of $32.49 and a 1-year high of $49.85. The company has a quick ratio of 0.91, a current ratio of 0.91 and a debt-to-equity ratio of 0.40. The stock has a fifty day moving average price of $37.57 and a 200-day moving average price of $37.54.

First Merchants (NASDAQ:FRME) last released its quarterly earnings results on Thursday, July 25th. The bank reported $0.83 EPS for the quarter, beating the Zacks’ consensus estimate of $0.80 by $0.03. The firm had revenue of $106.89 million for the quarter, compared to analyst estimates of $109.10 million. First Merchants had a net margin of 31.66% and a return on equity of 11.36%. Sell-side analysts predict that First Merchants will post 3.22 earnings per share for the current fiscal year.

The business also recently announced a quarterly dividend, which will be paid on Friday, September 20th. Shareholders of record on Friday, September 6th will be paid a $0.26 dividend. This represents a $1.04 dividend on an annualized basis and a dividend yield of 2.85%. The ex-dividend date is Thursday, September 5th. First Merchants’s dividend payout ratio is presently 32.30%.

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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