As the first trading week of March concluded, small-cap financial play First Bancorp (FBNC) asserted its position as a real market force to watch. In just over the first two months of the year, First Bancorp has notched an impressive 20 percent gain.
There have been few major announcements that have spurred the surge, though what scant developments there have been on the company have been positive. On Feb. 25 Thomas Reuters upgraded the company from sell to hold. Prior to that, on Feb. 3 First Bancorp issued their quarterly earnings report that missed on profits and revenues but was an improvement over the year prior. In late Decmeber 2013, Zacks voiced their confidence in the stock, issuing a rating of Strong Buy.
Investors appeared to be still riding the high of their year-end results announced in late January that showed net income up $13 million for the year. Those results started First Bancorp’s steady climb up the charts that has continued largely unabated in 2014.
First Bancorp has been singled out by the Equities.com Small-Cap Stars project as possessing unusually strong fundamentals for a small-cap financial play, meeting benchmarks in price-to-book ratio, three-year standard deviation, market debt, and fixed asset to total asset ratio. In all, First Bank received a four-star rating, the highest possible grade.
First Bancorp is the holding company for the Puerto Rican bank chain FirstBank. The lender has been in operation on the island since 1948. Like many financial institutions, FirstBank was decimated in the 2008 global meltdown, plunging from nearly $115 a share to under $3 apiece. The lender still owes the YUS government $400 million in TARP bailout funds.
Since last year however, First Bancorp has been rapidly recovering, especially as of late. By midday trading on Friday March 7 the bank had notched a gain of 4.34 percent to hit $5.64 a share.
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