E*Trade ( ET) posted lower earnings Wednesday but beat Wall Street's fourth-quarter expectations.

For the quarter ended Dec. 31, the New York-based brokerage and bank earned $98 million, or 26 cents a share, down from the year-ago $107 million, or 27 cents a share. Revenue rose 10% from a year ago to $409 million. The latest quarter included a 2-cent-a-share benefit from a lower tax rate. Even so, the figures beat the analyst consensus estimate, which called for earnings of 22 cents a share on revenue of $398 million.

The company said it added 61,000 brokerage accounts in the latest period and posted a consolidated operating margin of 31%. Daily average revenue trades fell 3% from a year ago to 136,100 but rose 40% from third-quarter levels. Margin debt rose 10% sequentially and 27% year-on-year.

"In 2004, we proved that you can increase profitability and earnings, while sharing the rewards of financial success with customers," said CEO Mitchell H. Caplan. "Our record-breaking year continues to validate the strength of our model and underscores our commitment to passing on unique advantages to customers. In 2005, we intend to deliver continued value to our customers and shareholders by enhancing our customer segmentation and increasing integration."

On Wednesday, the stock rose 47 cents to $13.39.

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