Charles Schwab Posts Stronger First-Quarter Profit

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Online brokerage firm Charles Schwab Corp (NYSE:SCHW) announced first quarter earnings that were in line with analysts’ estimates. Helped by increased growth of new customers, the company’s profits jumped 5.6 percent to $2.6 million from $195 million in the same period a year ago. EPS was flat at 15 cents per share. Revenues grew 8 percent from $1.19 billion in the first quarter of last year to $1.29 billion.

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Analysts polled by FactSet were expecting, on an average, 16 cents in earnings with revenues of $1.27 billion. Showing confidence in its cost-cutting measures, Charles Schwab Corp (NYSE:SCHW) issued optimistic guidance for the full year. Charles Schwab Corp (NYSE:SCHW) and its peers have been struggling with an industry-wide weakness in trading volume as the European and U.S. economic outlook remains uncertain.

Schwab’s earnings were driven by solid revenues from administration fees, asset management and greater interest revenues, but the trading activity remains a cause of concern. Charles Schwab Corp (NYSE:SCHW) CEO Walt Bettinger said that earnings were also hurt by increased contribution to employee health savings accounts and an increase in incentive payments. Bettinger also said that the company has made substantial investments in its clients for many years, and that’s what is driving the strong business momentum.

Revenues from administration fees and asset management surged 14 percent to $552 million, trading revenues declined 8 percent to $223 million, while net interest revenues rose 8 percent to $469 million. Net expenses excluding interest increased 9.5 percent to $959 million.

During the three month period ended March 31, its total clients’ assets increased 14 percent to $2.08 trillion. Clients placed $43.4 billion in net new assets, and new brokerage accounts increased by 2 percent Y-o-Y to 244,000. For the full-year, the company remains firm on its previous guidance of earnings in the mid-70 range, which is in line with analysts’ estimate of 74 cents per share.

Bank of America-Merrill Lynch said in a research report that earnings were in line with its estimate of 15 cents, but lower than the consensus estimate of 16 cents due to higher costs. The company expects pre-tax profit margin of 30 percent riding on cost cutting measures and diversified revenue streams. BAML analyst Michael Carrier believes that the brokerage firm is well-positioned for longer-term growth. Bank of America-Merrill Lynch has an $18 price target on the stock.

Charles Schwab Corp (NYSE:SCHW) shares were down 2.37 percent to $16.87 at 12:35 PM EDT.

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