Thinly traded First Trust Bank was a popular stock with investors early Friday after rumors circulated that the Charlotte community bank could soon be acquired.

Citing industry sources, the Charlotte Business Journal reported on its website that the $442 million-asset bank was being targeted by both community banks and private-equity groups that are eager to gain a foothold in the Charlotte region or add to their presence there. First Trust's president, Jim Bolt, declined to comment to the Business Journal on the speculation, citing company policy not to discuss market speculation.

Investors, though, clearly believe something is up. As of midday, nearly 55,000 shares had traded hands, which was highly unusual for a stock that on some days is not traded at all. The average daily volume for First Trust is 2,100 shares.

Despite all the activity the share price was up only 2.2%, to $4.60.

First Trust, founded in 1999, has two branches in Charlotte and one in the suburbs. It earned $2.4 million last year and is very well capitalized, though it has struggled with credit quality issues. At Dec. 31, more than 10% of its loans were at least 90 days past due, according to Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. data.

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