For relief over the market's recent gains, few can match the online discount brokers. After all, they've spent the last dozen years educating consumers on the merits of trading over the Web: the convenience, the self-empowering rush, and, of course, the savings.

Everything was falling into place when the bottom fell out of the market. Then, faster than you could say "chimp to chump," the online discounters, including E*Trade (NYSE:ET), Schwab (NYSE:SCH), and Ameritrade (NASDAQ:AMTD), fell flat.

Turns out, all the benefits of online trading meant little if folks just weren't interested in the stock market. Amazing what a few months of Wall Street gains will do to win back a crowd, huh?

Last night E*Trade reported strong third-quarter earnings on a 21% spike in revenue. On an average day the company processed 131,525 commissioned trades. That's a 49% improvement from last year.

Back in February, we argued that one shouldn't discount the discount brokers. While E*Trade originally guided analysts to earnings this year between $0.22 and $0.27 a share, last night it revised those targets. E*Trade is now looking for its 2003 profit to come in between $0.40 and $0.48 a share.

Looks like the online brokers are back. Maybe the time is right to check out our Broker Comparison Table to see if your stockbroker is up to snuff.

Happy with your broker? Not so happy? How do your fees and services stack up? Any new entries or established names that you would like to run past your fellow Fools? All this and more -- in the Discount Brokers discussion board. Only on