Sandler O’Neill upgraded shares of First Merchants (NASDAQ:FRME) from a hold rating to a buy rating in a research report released on Monday, Marketbeat.com reports. Sandler O’Neill currently has $47.00 price objective on the bank’s stock.

Other equities research analysts have also issued research reports about the stock. Zacks Investment Research upgraded shares of First Merchants from a hold rating to a buy rating and set a $55.00 target price for the company in a report on Monday, July 30th. BidaskClub upgraded shares of First Merchants from a buy rating to a strong-buy rating in a report on Thursday, August 16th. Piper Jaffray Companies set a $47.00 target price on shares of First Merchants and gave the stock a hold rating in a report on Friday, October 26th. ValuEngine lowered shares of First Merchants from a hold rating to a sell rating in a report on Tuesday, October 2nd. Finally, Stephens lowered shares of First Merchants from an overweight rating to an equal weight rating in a report on Monday, July 30th. One equities research analyst has rated the stock with a sell rating, four have given a hold rating and two have given a buy rating to the company’s stock. The company currently has an average rating of Hold and an average target price of $48.75.

First Merchants stock opened at $41.39 on Monday. The stock has a market capitalization of $2.05 billion, a PE ratio of 17.17, a PEG ratio of 1.85 and a beta of 0.85. The company has a debt-to-equity ratio of 0.38, a current ratio of 0.93 and a quick ratio of 0.92. First Merchants has a 12-month low of $39.24 and a 12-month high of $50.44.

First Merchants (NASDAQ:FRME) last released its earnings results on Wednesday, October 24th. The bank reported $0.83 earnings per share (EPS) for the quarter, topping the Thomson Reuters’ consensus estimate of $0.80 by $0.03. The firm had revenue of $106.01 million during the quarter, compared to analyst estimates of $104.90 million. First Merchants had a net margin of 30.43% and a return on equity of 11.16%. Research analysts forecast that First Merchants will post 3.18 EPS for the current year.

The business also recently declared a quarterly dividend, which will be paid on Friday, December 21st. Investors of record on Friday, December 7th will be paid a $0.22 dividend. This represents a $0.88 annualized dividend and a yield of 2.13%. The ex-dividend date is Thursday, December 6th. First Merchants’s dividend payout ratio is presently 36.51%.

A number of hedge funds have recently bought and sold shares of FRME. Quantbot Technologies LP purchased a new position in First Merchants in the 3rd quarter worth about $168,000. Verition Fund Management LLC purchased a new position in First Merchants in the 3rd quarter worth about $207,000. Biegel & Waller LLC purchased a new position in First Merchants in the 2nd quarter worth about $208,000. First Allied Advisory Services Inc. purchased a new position in First Merchants in the 2nd quarter worth about $213,000. Finally, Independent Advisor Alliance purchased a new position in First Merchants in the 2nd quarter worth about $213,000. 70.28% of the stock is currently owned by institutional investors.

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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