First Financial Bancorp (FFBC): Insiders Are Buying, Should You?

First Financial Bancorp (NASDAQ:FFBC)Is First Financial Bancorp (NASDAQ:FFBC) a buy right now? The best stock pickers are in a bullish mood. The number of long hedge fund positions moved up by 2 in recent months.

In the financial world, there are plenty of gauges investors can use to monitor Mr. Market. Two of the most under-the-radar are hedge fund and insider trading interest. At Insider Monkey, our research analyses have shown that, historically, those who follow the best picks of the top investment managers can outperform the broader indices by a superb margin (see just how much).

Equally as beneficial, bullish insider trading activity is a second way to break down the financial markets. Just as you’d expect, there are plenty of reasons for an upper level exec to sell shares of his or her company, but only one, very clear reason why they would behave bullishly. Plenty of empirical studies have demonstrated the market-beating potential of this strategy if investors know what to do (learn more here).

With these “truths” under our belt, it’s important to take a look at the latest action surrounding First Financial Bancorp (NASDAQ:FFBC).

How are hedge funds trading First Financial Bancorp (NASDAQ:FFBC)?

In preparation for this year, a total of 5 of the hedge funds we track were long in this stock, a change of 67% from one quarter earlier. With the smart money’s positions undergoing their usual ebb and flow, there exists a few key hedge fund managers who were increasing their stakes significantly.

When looking at the hedgies we track, Citadel Investment Group, managed by Ken Griffin, holds the biggest position in First Financial Bancorp (NASDAQ:FFBC). Citadel Investment Group has a $1.5 million position in the stock, comprising less than 0.1%% of its 13F portfolio. Sitting at the No. 2 spot is AQR Capital Management, managed by Cliff Asness, which held a $0.9 million position; the fund has less than 0.1%% of its 13F portfolio invested in the stock. Remaining hedgies with similar optimism include Paul Tudor Jones’s Tudor Investment Corp, John Overdeck and David Siegel’s Two Sigma Advisors and David Costen Haley’s HBK Investments.

With a general bullishness amongst the heavyweights, key money managers were leading the bulls’ herd. Tudor Investment Corp, managed by Paul Tudor Jones, established the biggest position in First Financial Bancorp (NASDAQ:FFBC). Tudor Investment Corp had 0.4 million invested in the company at the end of the quarter. John Overdeck and David Siegel’s Two Sigma Advisors also initiated a $0.2 million position during the quarter.

Insider trading activity in First Financial Bancorp (NASDAQ:FFBC)

Bullish insider trading is most useful when the company in focus has experienced transactions within the past six months. Over the last half-year time period, First Financial Bancorp (NASDAQ:FFBC) has seen 9 unique insiders purchasing, and 2 insider sales (see the details of insider trades here).

Let’s check out hedge fund and insider activity in other stocks similar to First Financial Bancorp (NASDAQ:FFBC). These stocks are Chemical Financial Corporation (NASDAQ:CHFC), Park National Corporation (NYSEAMEX:PRK), First Midwest Bancorp Inc (NASDAQ:FMBI), National Bank Holdings Corp (NYSE:NBHC), and Citizens Republic Bancorp Inc (NASDAQ:CRBC). All of these stocks are in the regional – midwest banks industry and their market caps resemble FFBC’s market cap.