Brokerage IPOs, Trading Earnings

File this one under anecdotal signs that things have gotten a bit frothy.

Under IPOs, consider:

• A few months ago, investment-banking boutique Thomas Weisel Partners Group went public through an IPO;

• French bank Société Générale SA has filed to take its
investment-banking arm, Cowen & Co., public (also through an IPO);

Ryan Beck Holdings Inc. is the latest Wall Street firm to file for an IPO. A few years ago, Ryan Beck bought nearly defunct B/D Gruntal. 

If you recall, Gruntal (now Ryan Beck’s) perma-bullish strategist Joe Battipaglia
was a regular fixture on TV during the bubble years; For a few years
after the crash, he was radioactive.  Battipaglia has returned to the
boob tube — not quite the regular fixture he once was, but still quite
visible.

Next up is a quick glance at retail trading activity:

Schwab’s profit jumped 68% in Q1. Revenue rose 21% to $1.28 billion, as revenue-generating trades were up to 275,200 per day; That compares with a daily average of 191,300 trades in the first quarter of 2005 — a year over year increase in trading activity of 44%.

Ameritrade has already announced that their Q1 earnings would exceed the high end of its previously announced range;

E-Trade Financial Corp., thanks to "vigorous retail-stock interest," is expected to post solid results.

A significant group of active retail traders have returned to the fold
– a group that historically does not have the greatest timing. And the
decision of Brokerage firm managements to cash out may simply be a case
of making hay while the sun shines.

None of these data points are conclusive, and they do not imply the market is about to roll over and die tomorrow. 

But they sure as hell are worth taking notice of.

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Are future retirees overly optimistic?

Yes.

That’s the conclusion of a study by the  Employee Benefit Research Institute. EBRI determined that more than half of workers saving for retirement have less than $50,000 put away; Other employees are counting on employer-provided benefits in retirement that are increasingly unavailable.

Here’s the WSJ’s overview:

"Despite recent moves by large companies to freeze pensions and
chip away at retiree-health benefits, Americans remain confident — if
dangerously naïve — about their retirement prospects, according to new
research.

Many workers are counting on traditional pension plans to pay
their bills in retirement, even though such plans are fast disappearing. Only
40% of working couples currently are covered by pension plans, but nearly
two-thirds of surveyed workers — 61% — expect to get income from such a plan
in retirement, according to the Retirement Confidence Survey, scheduled for
release today by the Employee Benefit Research Institute, a Washington
nonprofit, and others.

The responses in the survey, conducted annually for the past 16
years, reflect few worries about the spreading curtailment of pension plans.
Twenty-four percent of the survey’s participants said that they are very
confident that they will have enough money to live comfortably in retirement –
virtually the same number as last year — and 44% of those surveyed said they
are somewhat confident about their financial prospects in later life, an
increase of four percentage points from last year."

See table below for more details . . .

Source:
Workers’ Views On Retirement May Be Too Rosy
KELLY GREENE
WSJ, April 4, 2006; Page D2
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB114411194874516024.html

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