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Online brokers see mixed trading activity as client assets surge in December '16

Online brokers saw mixed results in their daily average revenue trades in December 2016, though total client assets grew across the board during the period.

E*TRADE Financial Corp. posted the largest year-over-year jump in DARTs in December 2016, with an increase of 26.1% to 186,196. TD Ameritrade Holding Corp. also saw its DARTs rise year over year by 10.3% to 484,000.

TradeStation Group Inc. had the largest decline in DARTs on a year-over-year basis in December 2016, with a drop of 19.1% to 89,059. DARTs at Interactive Brokers Group Inc. fell 5.7% year over year to 592,000 during the same period.

Charles Schwab Corp. reported daily average revenue trades of 293,000 in the fourth quarter of 2016, up from 268,000 in the third quarter of 2016 and 285,000 in the year-ago quarter. The online broker does not report DARTs on a monthly basis. Sandler O'Neill & Partners analyst Richard Repetto said in a note that Schwab's fourth-quarter 2016 DARTs exceeded his estimate of 290,000 and climbed back to 51% of total trades after a weaker third quarter.

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In terms of total client assets, Interactive Brokers experienced the biggest year-over-year growth. The online broker's total client assets rose 26.9% year over year in December 2016, compared with 14.6% at TD Ameritrade, 11.2% at TradeStation Group, 10.6% at Charles Schwab and 8.1% at E*TRADE Financial.

Following the December 2016 trading pullback, Repetto expects January DARTs, based on his retail trading proxies, to increase month over month by 5% despite muted volatility. TD Ameritrade President and CEO Timothy Hockey recently expressed optimism that President Donald Trump's administration will boost trading activity in the future as market conditions become more volatile.

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