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Merrill Lynch

( MER) reported a 70% surge in first-quarter earnings Monday that far exceeded Wall Street's estimates.

Charles Schwab

( SCH), meanwhile, reported its earnings almost doubled, but the results were only slightly ahead of analysts' expectations.

Merrill said its net income rose to $1.037 billion, or $2.38 a diluted share, from $609 million, or $1.44 a share, a year earlier.

Analysts surveyed by

First Call/Thomson Financial

expected the New York-based firm to earn $1.83 cents a share in the latest quarter.

Net revenue, or revenue minus interest expenses, rose 38%, to $7.2 billion from $5.2 billion.

Shares of Merrill closed Monday up 1/4, or 0.28%, at 90 1/4.

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The firm said its strongest growth was in Europe and Japan. Merrill led the industry in debt and equity underwriting in the U.S. and abroad, but did not advance beyond third place in assisting global mergers and acquisitions, one of the top growth sectors for financial services. Analysts have expressed concerns about that pole position for at least three quarters.

Joan Solotar, an analyst for

Donaldson Lufkin & Jenrette

, said investors will likely watch the firm's ability to attract new money to its asset management business. Merrill added $48 billion to U.S. private client assets during the quarter. After negative momentum in the business segment last year, the firm reported $36 billion in new money last quarter.

Schwab, meanwhile, reported net income of $284.2 million, or 33 cents a diluted share, compared with $142.9 million, or 17 cents a share, a year earlier.

Analysts surveyed by First Call/Thomson Financial expected the San Francisco-based brokerage to earn 32 cents a share.

Net revenue in the quarter rose 65%, to $1.57 billion from $951.6 million a year earlier.

Schwab finished Monday up 1 1/2, or 3.7%, at 42.

Each firm's stock fell substantially on Friday, and jittery markets will affect their performances as well, Solotar said.

"The challenge is market stability, which is out of the hands of the company," she said. Solotar rates Merrill a buy. She does not cover Schwab, and her firm has done underwriting for neither company.