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First Financial Shares Jump On Analysts' Upgrades

BOSTON (AP) ¿ Shares of First Financial Bancorp on Tuesday soared for a second day on the regional bank holding company's government-assisted acquisition of banking assets from the shutdown of two Irwin Financial Corp. units.

Analysts hailed the transaction as a shareholder victory, saying it will enable First Financial to expand its footprint at a discount and boost earnings.

The deal was announced after markets closed Friday as the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. was appointed receiver of a pair of Irwin units, Louisville, Ky.-based Irwin Union Bank FSB and Columbus, Ind.-based Irwin Union Bank and Trust Co.

Hamilton, Ohio-based First Financial will buy essentially all the assets of the two banks, which became the 93rd and 94th failures this year of federally insured banks. The FDIC and First Financial reached a loss-share agreement covering about $2.5 billion of the two banks' combined assets.

After rising 24 percent on Monday, shares of First Financial surged another 18 percent, or $1.86, to $12.15 in midday trading Tuesday. The stock has traded in a 52-week range of $5.07 to $15.
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