Zacks Investment Research Downgrades First Merchants (FRME) to Hold

First Merchants (NASDAQ:FRME) was downgraded by Zacks Investment Research from a “buy” rating to a “hold” rating in a report issued on Thursday.

According to Zacks, “FIRST MERCHANTS CORP. is a bank holding company engaged in conducting commercial banking business through the offices of its banking subsidiaries. “

Several other research firms have also issued reports on FRME. Piper Jaffray reissued a “hold” rating and set a $48.00 target price on shares of First Merchants in a report on Sunday, January 28th. BidaskClub lowered First Merchants from a “hold” rating to a “sell” rating in a report on Thursday, January 25th. Keefe, Bruyette & Woods reissued a “buy” rating and set a $52.00 target price on shares of First Merchants in a report on Thursday, January 25th. Finally, FIG Partners reissued a “market-perform” rating on shares of First Merchants in a report on Monday, January 29th. Three equities research analysts have rated the stock with a hold rating and two have given a buy rating to the company. The company currently has an average rating of “Hold” and an average target price of $49.33.

Shares of FRME traded up $0.53 during trading hours on Thursday, hitting $45.24. 91,358 shares of the company were exchanged, compared to its average volume of 142,043. The firm has a market cap of $2.20 billion, a P/E ratio of 18.77, a price-to-earnings-growth ratio of 2.09 and a beta of 0.90. First Merchants has a fifty-two week low of $44.32 and a fifty-two week high of $44.54. The company has a debt-to-equity ratio of 0.45, a quick ratio of 0.93 and a current ratio of 0.93.

First Merchants (NASDAQ:FRME) last released its earnings results on Thursday, April 26th. The bank reported $0.74 earnings per share (EPS) for the quarter, topping the consensus estimate of $0.70 by $0.04. The company had revenue of $99.48 million for the quarter, compared to analyst estimates of $98.35 million. First Merchants had a return on equity of 9.82% and a net margin of 26.33%. research analysts predict that First Merchants will post 3.04 earnings per share for the current fiscal year.

In related news, insider Michele Kawiecki sold 600 shares of the firm’s stock in a transaction dated Wednesday, May 9th. The stock was sold at an average price of $44.42, for a total value of $26,652.00. The transaction was disclosed in a document filed with the SEC, which can be accessed through the SEC website. Also, insider Mark K. Hardwick sold 4,500 shares of the firm’s stock in a transaction dated Friday, May 4th. The shares were sold at an average price of $43.91, for a total value of $197,595.00. The disclosure for this sale can be found here. Over the last three months, insiders have bought 90 shares of company stock worth $3,836 and have sold 7,319 shares worth $318,776. Corporate insiders own 1.41% of the company’s stock.

A number of large investors have recently added to or reduced their stakes in the stock. HBK Investments L P raised its position in First Merchants by 9.8% in the fourth quarter. HBK Investments L P now owns 16,800 shares of the bank’s stock valued at $707,000 after purchasing an additional 1,500 shares during the last quarter. California Public Employees Retirement System raised its position in First Merchants by 1.3% in the fourth quarter. California Public Employees Retirement System now owns 131,665 shares of the bank’s stock valued at $5,538,000 after purchasing an additional 1,753 shares during the last quarter. Swiss National Bank raised its position in First Merchants by 2.2% in the first quarter. Swiss National Bank now owns 85,462 shares of the bank’s stock valued at $3,564,000 after purchasing an additional 1,800 shares during the last quarter. Natixis Advisors L.P. raised its position in First Merchants by 1.3% in the first quarter. Natixis Advisors L.P. now owns 157,817 shares of the bank’s stock valued at $6,581,000 after purchasing an additional 1,974 shares during the last quarter. Finally, Pitcairn Co. raised its position in First Merchants by 34.6% in the first quarter. Pitcairn Co. now owns 8,484 shares of the bank’s stock valued at $354,000 after purchasing an additional 2,182 shares during the last quarter. 70.27% of the stock is currently owned by institutional investors and hedge funds.

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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