MUNCIE — Forbes has released its 2021 list of “America’s Best Banks,” and once again, one of the Midwest’s legacy financial institutions sits at the top of banks based in Indiana and one of the best in the nation. First Merchants Bank – Indiana’s second largest financial services holding company – is rated by Forbes as the country’s 15th best bank for 2021.

“My colleagues and I are honored and humbled for First Merchants to once again be recognized as the top bank in Indiana and among the leading financial institutions nationally,” said First Merchants CEO Mark Hardwick in a statement. “The ranking recognizes and demonstrates the strength and stability we provide our clients – particularly during this unprecedented and uncertain environment caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The true barometer of our company’s performance will continue to be the results we produce for our clients and providing the highest level of service to them, our neighbors and communities.”

First Merchants — rated fifth in Forbes’ 2020 grading of the country’s 100 largest banks – once again ranks ahead of peers like JPMorgan Chase, Fifth Third Bancorp and Citigroup. The company was ranked second in the U.S. by Forbes in 2019.

Forbes ranks the country’s 100 largest banks based on 10 metrics related to growth, profitability, capital adequacy and asset quality. Metrics include return on average tangible equity, return on average assets, net interest margin, efficiency ratio and net charge-offs as a percent of total loans. S&P Global Market Intelligence provides data, but the rankings are done exclusively by Forbes. The global media company also factored in nonperforming assets as a percent of assets, risk-based capital ratio and reserves as a percent of nonperforming assets.

First Merchants has assets of approximately $14.1 billion with 130 banking offices in Indiana, Michigan, Ohio and Illinois.

Steel Dynamics provides Q1 2021 earnings guidance

Steel Dynamics, Inc. (NASDAQ/GS: STLD) recently provided first-quarter 2021 earnings guidance in the range of $1.88 to $1.92 per diluted share. Excluding the impact from costs associated with the construction of the company’s Sinton, Texas, Flat Roll Steel Mill growth investment of $18 million, or $0.06 per diluted share, the company expects first-quarter 2021 adjusted earnings to be in the range of $1.94 to $1.98 per diluted share, which could represent a record earnings quarter for the company.

Comparatively, the company’s sequential fourth quarter 2020 earnings were $0.89 per diluted share, and adjusted earnings were $0.97 per diluted share, excluding the impact of additional financing costs of $0.04 per diluted share, construction costs related to the Texas steel mill of $0.05 per diluted share, a non-cash asset impairment charge of $0.06 per diluted share, and a tax benefit of $0.06 per diluted share. Prior year first quarter earnings were $0.88 per diluted share.

First quarter 2021 profitability from the company’s steel operations is expected to be significantly higher than sequential fourth-quarter results, driven by flat roll metal spread expansion, as strong demand continues to support flat roll steel prices. Average realized quarterly flat roll steel product pricing is expected to increase substantially during the quarter more than offsetting higher scrap costs. First-quarter 2021 steel shipments are expected to increase sequentially across the company’s portfolio. Domestic steel demand remains strong, with the automotive and construction sectors leading the momentum. Order entry continues to be robust as strong demand, coupled with continuing historically low flat roll steel inventories underpin higher steel selling values. The company believes this momentum will continue, resulting in even stronger second quarter 2021 results.

Ferrous scrap demand also continued to be strong in the first quarter, as domestic steel production continues its momentum. First-quarter earnings from the company’s metals recycling operations are also expected to be meaningfully higher than sequential fourth quarter results, based on increased volume and improved metal margins, as average quarterly raw material prices appreciated considerably during the quarter.

First-quarter 2021 earnings from the company’s steel fabrication operations are expected to be meaningfully lower sequentially, as higher steel input costs flow through the order backlog. Lower earnings are due to the timing of matching a six-month backlog to more current and higher priced steel inputs, and does not reflect demand dynamics. The company expects April 2021 to represent the earnings low point for its steel fabrication platform. First-quarter 2021 steel fabrication shipments are likely to reach record levels, as order activity is extremely strong, and customers continue to be optimistic concerning non-residential construction projects. Steel joist and deck product pricing has strengthened significantly as a result of strong demand and higher steel costs.

Cindy Larson is a longtime Fort Wayne journalist and is a Greater Fort Wayne Business Weekly reporter. To submit items, send email to clarson@kpcmedia.com.

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