Riding a booming month for trading,
( SCH) garnered strong customer, trading and asset growth in November, the financial services firm announced Monday.
"They're so great!" cheered Amy Butte, a
analyst who rates the stock a buy.
Investors seemed to disagree, knocking Schwab shares down 1 1/8, or 3%, to 39 5/8 in morning trading Monday. (Schwab settled down 2 1/16, or 5%, to 38 11/16.)
They may have been punishing the firm for reporting good -- rather than awe-inspiring -- news, said Greg Smith, an analyst at
Hambrecht & Quist
, who also rates the stock a buy.
"It didn't quite blow the doors off," said Smith, whose firm hasn't done underwriting for Schwab but does have an agreement to distribute shares of initial public offerings it sponsors through Schwab's trading systems.
The average number of trades that produced revenue from commissions per day in November was 202,900, 41% more than last month and 68% better than last November, the firm said. Schwab offers a variety of trading choices, though the firm is best known for its $29.95 per transaction online package.
Customer assets were $663 billion at the end of November, the firm said. That's 6% better than in October and 44% above last November.
And customers brought $9.5 billion in new assets to the firm, 40% above last November.
The Street finds the San Francisco firm particularly vulnerable to online trading centers as well as to big financial companies like
( MER), Butte said.
She was particularly pleased with Schwab's asset growth. If the only improvement had come in trading activity, the numbers might have signified a boom in online trading alone, she said.
"Because we're seeing such strength in asset flows, that shows strength of the entire operation," she said. "People vote with their assets."
Bear Stearns hasn't done underwriting for Schwab.
While not record-smashing, the numbers came in at the high end of
expectations, Smith of Hambrecht & Quist said.
"I don't think it was much of a surprise given the strength of the market in
," where online trading is most concentrated, he said. Volume on the Nasdaq was up 27% in November, he said.
Despite the strong month for trading, which might cause some observers to chalk Schwab's gains up to fate, the trading growth helps validate the firm's business model, Smith said.
According to Smith, the numbers show Schwab has found a middle ground: On one side, online companies like
( EGRP); on the other, traditional firms with cursory online operations. All those companies are moving toward the middle, he said, while "Schwab is sort of already there."