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

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

Shares of FFBC traded up $0.37 during mid-day trading on Thursday, hitting $25.20. 10,161 shares of the company were exchanged, compared to its average volume of 347,303. The stock has a market cap of $2.48 billion, a price-to-earnings ratio of 11.05 and a beta of 1.24. First Financial Bancorp has a 1-year low of $22.07 and a 1-year high of $28.59. The company has a 50 day moving average of $25.09 and a 200-day moving average of $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 posted its quarterly earnings data on Thursday, October 17th. The bank reported $0.56 earnings per share (EPS) for the quarter, topping the Thomson Reuters’ consensus estimate of $0.54 by $0.02. First Financial Bancorp had a return on equity of 10.13% and a net margin of 27.72%. The company had revenue of $154.68 million for the quarter, compared to analysts’ expectations of $150.98 million. During the same period in the previous year, the firm posted $0.58 EPS. Research analysts anticipate that First Financial Bancorp will post 2.14 earnings per share for the current fiscal year.

In other First Financial Bancorp news, Chairman Claude E. Davis sold 25,000 shares of First Financial Bancorp 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 completion of the transaction, the chairman now owns 304,860 shares of the company’s stock, valued at $7,475,167.20. The transaction was disclosed in a filing with the Securities & Exchange Commission, which can be accessed through this link. 2.00% of the stock is currently owned by insiders.

Several institutional investors have recently made changes to their positions in the business. Stock Yards Bank & Trust Co. purchased a new position in shares of First Financial Bancorp in the fourth quarter valued at approximately $311,000. First Financial Bank Trust Division lifted its holdings in First Financial Bancorp by 2.4% in the 4th quarter. First Financial Bank Trust Division now owns 654,547 shares of the bank’s stock valued at $16,652,000 after purchasing an additional 15,611 shares in the last quarter. Resources Management Corp CT ADV purchased a new position in First Financial Bancorp in the 3rd quarter valued at $487,000. Metropolitan Life Insurance Co NY lifted its holdings in First Financial Bancorp by 4.9% in the 3rd quarter. Metropolitan Life Insurance Co NY now owns 31,436 shares of the bank’s stock valued at $769,000 after purchasing an additional 1,458 shares in the last quarter. Finally, Man Group plc purchased a new position in First Financial Bancorp in the 3rd quarter valued at $4,710,000. 75.63% of the stock is owned by institutional investors and hedge funds.

FFBC has been the subject of a number of recent analyst reports. Royal Bank of Canada set a $24.00 price objective on shares of First Financial Bancorp and gave the company a “hold” rating in a report on Monday, October 21st. ValuEngine raised shares of First Financial Bancorp from a “sell” rating to a “hold” rating in a report on Wednesday, October 30th. Zacks Investment Research raised shares of First Financial Bancorp from a “hold” rating to a “buy” rating and set a $28.00 price objective for the company in a report on Thursday, January 9th. Finally, BidaskClub cut shares of First Financial Bancorp from a “hold” rating to a “sell” rating in a report on Tuesday. One analyst has rated the stock with a sell rating, four have assigned a hold rating and two have given a buy rating to the stock. The company currently has an average rating of “Hold” and a consensus price target of $28.20.

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.

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