Discount broker Charles Schwab ( SCH) said earnings per share more than doubled in the first quarter, as revenue from stock trading jumped sharply. Schwab, based in San Francisco, posted net income of $161 million, or 12 cents a share, compared with $71 million, or 5 cents per share, in the same period last year. The results were in line with analysts' estimates and followed similarly solid reports from Ameritrade
earlier in the session and E*Trade ( ET) last week. Schwab's revenue increased by 32% to $1.1 billion. "After a solid start in January, securities market returns softened, in keeping with mixed economic and geopolitical developments," said CEO David Pottruck in a statement. Although client activity slowed as the first quarter progressed, Pottruck continued, daily average revenue trades for the quarter rose 55% from last year. Meanwhile, new and existing clients opened 160,000 new accounts in the first quarter, the highest quarterly total in a year. Schwab said it attracted $13.8 billion in new client assets during the quarter, bringing total client assets to $996 billion, up 31% from the same period a year ago. "Our continued ability to attract assets and build stronger client relationships helped the company to achieve double-digit year-over-year percentage increases in all revenue categories for the first quarter of 2004," Pottruck said. "Our $1.2 billion in total revenue was the highest since the fourth quarter of 2000." Schwab's board of directors also approved a 43% increase in the company's quarterly dividend, to 2 cents a share. Schwab fell 3%, or 35 cents, to $10.51 in the regular session.