E-Trade Busy Launching Products, Expanding Trading

March 8, 2018 — 1:40 PM EST

E-Trade, the New York-based online broker, is having a busy 2018 so far, and we are just three months into the year. From rolling out new technology to boosting access to trading, E-Trade Financial Corporation (ETFC) is trying to become a formidable competitor to its larger rivals.

One example of the company's moves in early 2018 is its effort to increase access to trading as self-directed, low-cost DIY investing continues to take off. With a lot of news happening after market hours and with investors coming from all over the globe, E-Trade became the second discount brokerage to offer 24-hour trading five days a week.

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In an announcement late last month, E-Trade said that customers can now trade a selection of exchange-traded funds (ETFs) throughout the night Monday through Friday either online or via phone. The online brokerage said that it chose a selection of widely held ETFs – including ones that track the S&P 500, emerging markets, the Dow Jones Industrial Average, Chinese stocks and the Russell 2000 Index – to make available for round-the-clock trading.

"In today's non-stop news cycle, market-moving events don't wait for the opening or closing bell – they can happen at any time," said Christopher Larkin, senior vice president of trading product at E-Trade, in a press release at the time. "For investors and traders looking to execute strategies in the moment, they now have a 24-hour solution in E-Trade." The brokerage is not the first to offer this – TD Ameritrade beat E-Trade to the punch – but it is among the few that are providing increased access to trading. The same goes for bitcoin trading. While that is a 2017 story, being one of the few discount brokerages that let its investors trade cryptocurrency could prove to be a differentiator.

But it isn't just 24-hour trading that E-Trade has rolled out since the start of 2018. Late last month, the company unveiled what it is calling its Spectral Analysis tool. With the new tool, options traders can visualize the maximum profit and loss for an options strategy, view recent stock performance, and gauge potential profits and losses under different market conditions using the spectral map. The tool can also determine the potential for a profit and help traders make sense of options data that can seem like a different language. The Spectral Analysis tool is available through the brokerage's OptionsHouse platform.

This new tool builds on E-Trade's move in November to give clients the ability to trade options on mobile devices and log into their investment accounts with Apple Inc.'s (AAPL) Face ID. According to E-Trade, futures trading should not be limited to desktop computers, which is why the company is enabling futures trading on mobile devices via the OptionsHouse mobile app for iOS devices. The options trading ability has been optimized for mobile, noted E-Trade on Twitter.

All of those moves are not happening in a vacuum. Not only is the discount brokerage seeing more customers join its platform and its average daily trades increase, but some observers on Wall Street have become bullish on the stock. So far this year, Zacks Investment Research called E-Trade stock the "bull of the day" in February, and earlier this week Keefe, Bruyette & Woods raised its investment rating on the brokerage's shares to outperform from market perform. So far this year, shares are up more than 10%. E-Trade stock was recently trading down $0.28, or 0.5%, to $54.63.