It's all about expectations. Despite posting some pretty solid numbers across the board, optionsXpress (NASDAQ:OXPS) missed earnings estimates by $0.02, sending the stock down about 6%. Because of the hiccup, shares seem to be trading at a fairly reasonable value.

A soft retail trading environment has pressured shares of optionsXpress, E*Trade (NASDAQ:ETFC), and AMERITRADE (NASDAQ:AMTD). During the first quarter, customer accounts increased 25% over last year and total client assets increased 25%, which led to an 18% increase in sales and net income. The quarter included two months of contributions from the XpressTrade acquisition. Minus the acquisition, client asset growth was only 5%.

Some of the trends proved disappointing. Daily average revenue trades only increased 4% versus the year-ago period, customer trades per account dropped 19%, average commission per trade increased 2%, and advertising expense per net new customer account increased 214%.

Although the results were pretty soft, I would hesitate to extrapolate one quarter's results. During the quarter, the market suffered a pretty big scare, what with the fallout from the subprime issue and housing concerns. I have no idea what direction the stock market will go in and what implications that will have on future trading volumes, but if one thinks the market isn't due for a big drop-off, then optionsXpress' shares, at a projected 15 times forward earnings, are worth a look. (Keep in mind, this company has 64% pretax margins, and I calculate its run-rate return on equity in excess of 40%.)

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Fool contributor Emil Lee is an analyst and a disciple of value investing. He doesn't own shares in any of the companies mentioned above. Emil appreciates your comments, concerns, and complaints. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.