New York Stock Exchange specialist firm LaBranche ( LAB) said first-quarter earnings rose from a year ago, as trading commissions lifted from their depressed prewar levels. The company earned $7.9 million, or 11 cents a share, in the latest quarter, compared with earnings of $4.4 million, or 7 cents a share, last year. Revenue was $79.9 million in the 2004 quarter compared with $76.6 million last year. Analysts surveyed by Thomson First Call were forecasting first-quarter earnings of 11 cents a share. The stock was recently down 57 cents, or 5.4%, to $10.03. Breaking down the top line, LaBranche had revenue of $52.3 million from principal transactions in the latest quarter compared with $51.8 million last year; it had commission revenue of $25.5 million in the latest quarter compared with $22.5 million last year; and it had other revenue of $2.1 million in the latest quarter compared with $2.3 million last year.