Wednesday's Financial Winners & Losers

TD Ameritrade and E*Trade surge on shareholder pressure to pursue a merger.
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Updated from 1 p.m. EDT

Financial stocks slumped again Wednesday to mirror the movements of the broader market, but big winners emerged in online brokers

TD Ameritrade

(AMTD) - Get Report

and

E*Trade

(ETFC) - Get Report

.

Ameritrade climbed 3.8% in furious trading after announcing that Jana Partners and SAC Capital Advisors, which have disclosed owning around 8.4% of the company with the intention of acquiring additional shares worth more than $600 million, want Ameritrade immediately to pursue a merger with another broker. The firms specifically named E*Trade and

Charles Schwab

(SCHW) - Get Report

as possibilities.

The firms also stressed that they wish to avoid "interference" by 40% shareholder

Toronto-Dominion Bank

(TD) - Get Report

, which they say "may be standing in the way" of such a merger.

Ameritrade gained 76 cents to $20.71, and E*Trade traded heavily to jump 7.3% at $25.60. Charles Schwab lost 1.1%, and Toronto-Dominion -- a member of the

NYSE

Financial Sector Index -- gave up 0.7%. The index sank 0.9%, or 84.93 points, to 9825.97.

But another component of the index, subprime-mortgage lender

NovaStar Financial

(NFI)

, continued rising today following Tuesday's announcement that the Kansas City, Mo., firm had securitized $1.4 billion in nonconforming mortgage assets. Shares bounced 11% to $9.10.

The KBW Bank Index, which tracks large banks, fell 0.9% to 115.36.

As for individual names on the losing side,

United Fire & Casualty

(UFCS) - Get Report

slid 3.1% to $37.71 after A.G. Edwards cut the Iowa-based insurer to hold from buy, and

Prudential Financial

(PRU) - Get Report

shed 1.1% to $99.46 on word the New Jersey life insurer is shutting down its equity-research business, Prudential Equity Group.

Elsewhere, shares of

Hilb Rogal & Hobbs

(HRH)

slouched after the Virginia-based insurance broker agreed to buy Charlton Manley, a Kansas-based company that mainly operates as an insurance agency. Hilb Rogal was off 11 cents to $43.71.