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Is First Financial Bancorp (FFBC) A Good Stock To Buy?

Although the masses and most of the financial media blame hedge funds for their exorbitant fee structure and disappointing performance, these investors have proved to have great stock picking abilities over the years (that’s why their assets under management continue to swell). We believe hedge fund sentiment should serve as a crucial tool of an individual investor’s stock selection process, as it may offer great insights of how the brightest minds of the finance industry feel about specific stocks. After all, these people have access to smartest analysts and expensive data/information sources that individual investors can’t match. So should one consider investing in First Financial Bancorp (NASDAQ:FFBC)? The smart money sentiment can provide an answer to this question.

Is First Financial Bancorp (NASDAQ:FFBC) a buy here? Prominent investors are in a bullish mood. The number of bullish hedge fund positions inched up by 3 recently. First Financial Bancorp (NASDAQ:FFBC) was in 11 hedge funds’ portfolios at the end of the third quarter of 2015. There were 8 hedge funds in our database with First Financial Bancorp (NASDAQ:FFBC) positions at the end of the previous quarter. A similar mood is reflected in the market trading behavior, with the shares of the company trading 6.35% higher during the last quarter. For an in-depth understanding of the hedge fund sentiment, we will cover hedgies that held positions in First Financial Bancorp (NASDAQ:FFBC), at the end of September.

The level and the change in hedge fund popularity aren’t the only variables you need to analyze to decipher hedge funds’ perspectives. A stock may witness a boost in popularity, but it may still be less popular than similarly priced stocks. That’s why at the end of this article, we will examine companies such as ZIOPHARM Oncology Inc. (NASDAQ:ZIOP), NBT Bancorp Inc. (NASDAQ:NBTB), and THE CHEMOURS COMPANY (NYSE:CC) to gather more data points.

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According to most market participants, hedge funds are viewed as worthless, old financial vehicles of years past. While there are greater than 8000 funds trading today, our experts hone in on the aristocrats of this club, about 700 funds. These investment experts shepherd the majority of the hedge fund industry’s total capital, and by tailing their top stock picks, Insider Monkey has figured out a number of investment strategies that have historically outperformed the S&P 500 index. Insider Monkey’s small-cap hedge fund strategy outperformed the S&P 500 index by 12 percentage points annually for a decade in their back tests.

Keeping this in mind, we’re going to take a glance at the latest action encompassing First Financial Bancorp (NASDAQ:FFBC).

Hedge fund activity in First Financial Bancorp (NASDAQ:FFBC)

At the end of the third quarter, a total of 11 of the hedge funds tracked by Insider Monkey were long this stock, an increase of 38% from one quarter earlier. With hedge funds’ positions undergoing their usual ebb and flow, there exists an “upper tier” of noteworthy hedge fund managers who were boosting their stakes significantly (or already accumulated large positions).

Of the funds tracked by Insider Monkey, Israel Englander’s Millennium Management has the biggest position in First Financial Bancorp (NASDAQ:FFBC), worth close to $12.2 million, corresponding to less than 0.1% of its total 13F portfolio. Sitting at the No. 2 spot is Porter Collins, Daniel Moses, and Vincent Daniel of Seawolf Capital, with a $3.6 million position; the fund has 0.9% of its 13F portfolio invested in the stock. Some other professional money managers with similar optimism comprise Ken Gray and Steve Walsh’s Bryn Mawr Capital, Ken Griffin’s Citadel Investment Group, and Renaissance Technologies.