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Morgan Stanley Takes Another Step Forward

Stocks in this article: MS C

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- The Federal Reserve's bond-buying program isn't going away soon because the U.S. economy still stands on shaky legs. Will Ben Bernanke roll up his stimulus fire hose before he's absolutely sure the fire has been put out?

It didn't go unnoticed that no fewer than three central bankers over the past 24 hours have publicly calmed markets and clarified some misunderstandings. This came as Fed Bank presidents from Dallas and Minneapolis both moved to downplay the perception that quantitative easing is in imminent danger of ending.

At the same time, China's central bank said it will provide more liquidity and take needed steps to support local banks that are tight on cash or experiencing a credit squeeze. That helped the U.S. stock market to rebound on Tuesday.

One of the beneficiaries of that rebound was Morgan Stanley (MS), which recently announced that it will soon complete the purchase of brokerage firm Smith Barney. MS closed Tuesday at $25.03, up 2.6%.

Acquiring the part of Smith Barney it doesn't already own is a big deal, in fact the biggest since 1997 when MS bought Dean Witter Discover. The leadership of MS knows how to operate retail brokerage companies.

The current MS CEO is James Gorman, the same James Gorman who used to head Merrill Lynch's brokerage division. He and the board of directors want to transition MS into a company that enjoys the multiple streams of income that derive from wealth-management fees.

According to a June 21 press release, the company has received regulatory approval to buy the remaining 35 % interest in Morgan Stanley Smith Barney from Citigroup (C), fulfilling a key strategic priority.

The MS press release reads, "Upon the close of the purchase, Morgan Stanley will own 100% of the business, which operates under the name Morgan Stanley Wealth Management. Morgan Stanley will notify Citigroup that it intends to exercise its right to purchase the remaining interest at a previously established price of $4.7 billion, payable in cash. The closing is expected to take place on or about June 28, 2013."

It's been a very good year for MS stock. Last year CEO Gorman, in an effort to boost profitability, reduced the MS bond-trading side of the company and ramped up the wealth-management and brokerage side. As the chart below shows, it was well received by Wall Street.

MS Chart MS data by YCharts

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