Merrill Brokerage Re-Emerges As Beefy Online Service

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Special Report: 2013 Best Online Brokers

Five years ago, Merrill Lynch was on the verge of collapse.

The brokerage had written down billions of dollars in losses as the financial crisis unfolded, and its balance sheet was in tatters.


In the thick of the cash crunch -- September 2008 --Bank of America ( BAC ) bought Merrill Lynch in a $50 billion deal that was more a rescue of Merrill than a strategic opportunity for the bank.

One Of The Results

The combined companies have emerged with a comprehensive online brokerage product called Merrill Edge. The service is a sort of hybrid, combining online trading tools and low-priced trades with some traditional advisory services.

On a more personalized side, clients can discuss investment options with professionals whom the firm calls financial solutions advisers. Consultations are free but there may be fees for certain products sold through Merrill Edge.

One of the strengths of Merrill Edge is its MarketPro online trading platform. It provides real-time quotes and charts, technical indicators, price alerts, screening, options trading , major world indexes and other features prized by active traders. It also offers Dow Jones streaming news.

MarketPro is organized into various windows, each of which can be customized with charting and research options. Users can determine which elements to add, as well as the size of the frames that go into each pane.

Charts can be embellished with about 40 indicators, such as MACD (moving average convergence divergence), oscillators and volume. The parameters for some of them can be customized, too.

In July, MarketPro added Recognia, a Canada-based technical analysis service that provides bullish and bearish signals, including some customization. Other brokerages such as Fidelity and Charles Schwab use Recognia too.

Stock research is robust. A company profile includes extensive financial figures, performance ratios, analyst ratings for the stock, major competitors and earnings estimates. Trade execution is fast, and orders can be entered by right-clicking any ticker on any panel.

Extended-hours trading is available through an additional agreement. There are no extra fees, but only limit orders are available.

In IBD's 2013 Best Online Brokers survey, Merrill Edge ranked as one of the top five in the low commissions and fees category.

Costs

F or investors who meet its account minimums, Merrill Edge provides 30 free stock and ETF trades per month. The customer must have at least $25,000 in a brokerage account or a BofA bank, CD or IRA account or $50,000 in a bank and brokerage account combined in its Platinum Privileges program. Commissions are a flat $6.95 thereafter.

Merrill Edge has a mobile app for account access with some basic trading tools. The app does not include real-time quotes.

RELATED:

How Top Broker Rankings Were Calculated In IBD Survey

Online Stock Broker Clients' Top 12 Wish-List Items



The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of The NASDAQ OMX Group, Inc.




This article appears in: Investing , Investing Ideas

Referenced Stocks: BAC

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