First Financial Bancorp. (NASDAQ:FFBC) was the recipient of a large increase in short interest during the month of July. As of July 31st, there was short interest totalling 1,612,126 shares, an increase of 26.3% from the July 14th total of 1,276,743 shares. Currently, 2.4% of the company’s shares are sold short. Based on an average trading volume of 442,430 shares, the days-to-cover ratio is presently 3.6 days.

Shares of First Financial Bancorp. (NASDAQ:FFBC) opened at 24.30 on Friday. The stock has a market capitalization of $1.51 billion, a price-to-earnings ratio of 16.09 and a beta of 1.18. The company has a 50-day moving average of $26.93 and a 200 day moving average of $27.18. First Financial Bancorp. has a one year low of $20.55 and a one year high of $29.80.

First Financial Bancorp. (NASDAQ:FFBC) last issued its quarterly earnings results on Tuesday, July 25th. The bank reported $0.37 earnings per share (EPS) for the quarter, missing analysts’ consensus estimates of $0.38 by $0.01. First Financial Bancorp. had a return on equity of 10.65% and a net margin of 24.28%. The business had revenue of $85.97 million during the quarter, compared to analyst estimates of $89.52 million. During the same period in the previous year, the business posted $0.36 earnings per share. Equities research analysts forecast that First Financial Bancorp. will post $1.52 earnings per share for the current fiscal year.

The firm also recently declared a quarterly dividend, which will be paid on Monday, October 2nd. Shareholders of record on Friday, September 1st will be paid a $0.17 dividend. This represents a $0.68 dividend on an annualized basis and a yield of 2.80%. The ex-dividend date of this dividend is Wednesday, August 30th. First Financial Bancorp.’s payout ratio is 45.03%.

Several research analysts have recently weighed in on FFBC shares. Barclays PLC lowered their price target on shares of First Financial Bancorp. from $27.00 to $25.00 and set an “underweight” rating on the stock in a research report on Thursday, July 27th. Zacks Investment Research cut shares of First Financial Bancorp. from a “buy” rating to a “hold” rating in a research report on Monday, June 26th. Piper Jaffray Companies set a $28.00 price target on shares of First Financial Bancorp. and gave the company a “hold” rating in a research report on Tuesday, July 25th. Sandler O’Neill raised shares of First Financial Bancorp. from a “hold” rating to a “buy” rating and boosted their price target for the company from $28.00 to $29.00 in a research report on Friday, July 28th. Finally, BidaskClub cut shares of First Financial Bancorp. from a “hold” rating to a “sell” rating in a research report on Friday, July 28th. Two research analysts have rated the stock with a sell rating, five have issued a hold rating and four have issued a buy rating to the stock. The company has an average rating of “Hold” and an average target price of $28.63.

In other news, insider C Douglas Lefferson sold 40,000 shares of the business’s stock in a transaction dated Tuesday, August 1st. The shares were sold at an average price of $25.69, for a total transaction of $1,027,600.00. Following the transaction, the insider now owns 74,170 shares of the company’s stock, valued at approximately $1,905,427.30. The sale was disclosed in a filing with the SEC, which is available at this hyperlink. Insiders own 1.88% of the company’s stock.

A number of hedge funds have recently modified their holdings of the company. Bronfman E.L. Rothschild L.P. raised its stake in shares of First Financial Bancorp. by 2.8% in the first quarter. Bronfman E.L. Rothschild L.P. now owns 4,439 shares of the bank’s stock worth $122,000 after buying an additional 122 shares during the last quarter. Ameritas Investment Partners Inc. acquired a new stake in shares of First Financial Bancorp. during the first quarter worth about $139,000. Bank of Montreal Can raised its stake in shares of First Financial Bancorp. by 50.3% in the first quarter. Bank of Montreal Can now owns 5,580 shares of the bank’s stock worth $153,000 after buying an additional 1,867 shares during the last quarter. SG Americas Securities LLC raised its stake in shares of First Financial Bancorp. by 16.6% in the first quarter. SG Americas Securities LLC now owns 6,492 shares of the bank’s stock worth $178,000 after buying an additional 922 shares during the last quarter. Finally, IFP Advisors Inc raised its stake in shares of First Financial Bancorp. by 0.5% in the first quarter. IFP Advisors Inc now owns 6,506 shares of the bank’s stock worth $179,000 after buying an additional 31 shares during the last quarter. 67.23% of the stock is currently owned by hedge funds and other institutional investors.

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First Financial Bancorp. Company Profile

First Financial Bancorp. (First Financial) is a regional bank holding company. First Financial is engaged in the business of commercial banking and other banking and banking-related activities through its subsidiary, First Financial Bank, National Association (the Bank). The range of banking services provided by First Financial to individuals and businesses include commercial lending, real estate lending and consumer financing.

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