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Will E*Trade kick off a race to offer more foreign trading?

Posted by: Aaron Pressman on February 20, 2007

E*Trade announced today that they’d soon let their online customers trade shares directly in six foreign markets at reasonable commission rates (though higher than the rock-bottom rates for trading U.S. listed shares). The six markets are Canada, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Japan and the United Kingdom. You often get conflicting information when you ask the online brokers about whether they allow trading directly on overseas exchanges but when they do allow it, they typically charge high commissions — triple-digit high in some cases.

So E*Trade’s move offers a sliver of hope, since the online brokerage firms frequently get into a game of leap frog, as they did over basic commissions, options trading, day trading software systems and so forth. As we’ve written about in the past, some interesting products, like Barclay’s India ETF and shares of KKR’s publicly-listed private equity fund, don’t trade in the United States. Of course, those two trade in Singapore and Amsterdam, respectively, so E*Trade’s new program still won’t help. E*Trade has made a first move in the right direction but let’s hope they get leapfrogged rather quickly.

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Bloomberg Businessweek’s Ben Steverman focuses on the latest moves in financial markets and emerging trends in stocks, bonds, and funds, always with an eye toward giving readers a better understanding of the sometimes confusing and often chaotic world of money. Standard & Poor’s senior index analyst Howard Silverblatt will also provide his take on companies’ finances and the markets. Voted one of the “Top 100 Finance Blogs” in 2007.

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