First Merchants Co. (NASDAQ:FRME) Sees Large Growth in Short Interest

First Merchants Co. (NASDAQ:FRME) saw a significant increase in short interest during the month of August. As of August 31st, there was short interest totalling 1,550,800 shares, an increase of 24.4% from the July 31st total of 1,246,400 shares. Approximately 3.2% of the shares of the company are sold short. Based on an average trading volume of 253,900 shares, the days-to-cover ratio is presently 6.1 days.

In related news, Director Charles E. Schalliol sold 7,300 shares of the company’s stock in a transaction on Tuesday, September 10th. The stock was sold at an average price of $37.98, for a total transaction of $277,254.00. The transaction was disclosed in a legal filing with the Securities & Exchange Commission, which is accessible through the SEC website. In the last quarter, insiders have purchased 103 shares of company stock valued at $3,800. 1.30% of the stock is owned by company insiders.

A number of institutional investors and hedge funds have recently modified their holdings of FRME. Strs Ohio purchased a new stake in First Merchants in the first quarter worth about $25,000. Captrust Financial Advisors boosted 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 period. Denali Advisors LLC bought a new position in shares of First Merchants in the second quarter worth about $125,000. Bank of Montreal Can boosted 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 period. Finally, Zurcher Kantonalbank Zurich Cantonalbank boosted 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 period. Institutional investors and hedge funds own 73.68% of the company’s stock.

FRME traded down $0.71 during midday trading on Thursday, reaching $38.55. The company had a trading volume of 279,474 shares, compared to its average volume of 209,997. 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 business has a 50-day moving average of $36.68 and a two-hundred day moving average of $37.18. The company has a market cap of $1.92 billion, a P/E ratio of 11.97, a P/E/G ratio of 1.64 and a beta of 1.06. First Merchants has a 1 year low of $32.49 and a 1 year high of $49.22.

First Merchants (NASDAQ:FRME) last issued its quarterly earnings results on Thursday, July 25th. The bank reported $0.83 EPS for the quarter, topping analysts’ consensus estimates of $0.80 by $0.03. The business had revenue of $106.89 million during the quarter, compared to analysts’ expectations of $109.10 million. First Merchants had a return on equity of 11.36% and a net margin of 31.66%. On average, equities research analysts predict that First Merchants will post 3.22 EPS for the current year.

The business also recently declared a quarterly dividend, which will be paid on Friday, September 20th. Shareholders of record on Friday, September 6th will be given a $0.26 dividend. This represents a $1.04 dividend on an annualized basis and a yield of 2.70%. The ex-dividend date is Thursday, September 5th. First Merchants’s payout ratio is 32.30%.

FRME has been the subject of a number of research reports. Zacks Investment Research upgraded First Merchants from a “sell” rating to a “hold” rating in a research report on Monday. Stephens upgraded First Merchants from an “equal weight” rating to an “overweight” rating and set a $44.00 price objective for the company in a research report on Tuesday, July 9th. Hovde Group initiated coverage on First Merchants in a research report on Wednesday, May 22nd. They set a “market perform” rating and a $39.00 price objective for the company. Finally, ValuEngine upgraded First Merchants from a “sell” rating to a “hold” rating in a research report on Wednesday. Four research analysts have rated the stock with a hold rating and four have assigned a buy rating to the company. First Merchants has an average rating of “Buy” and an average target price of $43.33.

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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