"Their rationale was fair," Moglia told me in a telephone interview shortly after the company completed its quarterly conference call. He even allowed that such a new perspective was appropriate since one of the analysts covering the story was new. "They simply erred on the conservative side."
How's that for modesty? When I last spoke with Moglia back in April, the company was coming off its fourth consecutive record quarter. The company hasn't lost a step since, as each of its last seven quarters has surpassed the best that the company's previous 120 quarters had to offer.
So why are the shares of Ameritrade, as well as those of fellow discount brokersE*Trade
"I can only speak for Ameritrade," he begins. He then points to the fivefold growth in his company's market cap over the past three years and understands why some investors have decided to take their profits and move on.
Not that the company has followed suit. Ameritrade has been aggressively buying back its shares, to the point at which its diluted shares outstanding has dipped by 5% over the past year.
As for the December quarter, net interest revenue was the real difference maker, as the Fed's rate hikes allowed Ameritrade the flexibility to earn more on its margin-account business. In fact, the company's commission and clearing fees ran essentially flat with last year's showing, despite closing out the period with more than 1.7 million qualified accounts.
Then again, the drop in trading activity can be tied to a market rally that started too late in the December quarter as investors took to the sidelines early in the presidential election process. Yet that is also why the company is entering the current quarter with a good head of steam: Ameritrade is now expecting to earn between $0.77 and $0.90 a share this year.
Action speaks louder than modesty -- and tomorrow I'll be back to discuss lower commissions in the brokerage industry.
Are you looking to trade online? Have you checked our Broker Comparison Table lately? Who is the best discount broker for you? All this and more -- in the Discount Brokers discussion board. Only on Fool.com.
Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz relishes the power and freewill of the online investing experience. He does not own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this story and he is a member of the Rule Breakers analytical team, seeking out the next great growth stock early in its stage of defiance.
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