Shares of NYSE Euronext ( NYX) popped 9% in morning trading Thursday after the company reported a sharp decline in first-quarter earnings that nonetheless topped Wall Street's estimates.

The exchange reported adjusted income of $112 million, or 43 cents per share. Analysts were looking for 39 cents a share.

Those figures exclude one-time items. Including those, the company earned $104 million, or 40 cents a share, 55% less than the record $230 million, or 87 cents a share, it earned in the same period a year ago.

First-quarter revenue of $1.1 billion was flat with both analysts' estimates and the first period of 2008. Net revenue, however, which excludes various transaction costs and fees, dropped 21% to $604 million.

The company blamed its declining profit on increased competition that, in turn, has caused a drop in prices across the exchange sector. NYSE Euronext also said that diminished trading volumes in European currencies and derivatives hurt revenue in the quarter.

In a cautious note, the company said it will continue to seek ways to cut expenses and widen its profit margins amid the deepening recession. The NYSE's continued banning of the uptick rule has received criticism recently along these lines : that keeping the rule in place saves the exchange significant money.

NYSE Euronext's stock was trading recently at $24.48, up $1.96, on heavy volume.
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