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Net brokerages unfazed by drop

Online brokerages say they are managing to handle the trading traffic brought on by today's stock market plunge.

Online brokerages said today that they are managing to handle the trading traffic brought on by today's stock market plunge.

E*Trade, Charles Schwab, Ameritrade, and trading sites run by Quick & Reilly, among others, said they are coping with the increased traffic that has accompanied today's downturn.

Online stock trading has boomed along with the Internet, but it also has led to consumer complaints about unreliable access in some instances. The worst example: October 1997, the biggest one-day drop in the stock market in history.

Such complaints appear to be diminishing, at least for now. "Just as these companies come of age, they're going to be able to handle more business and accommodate more extraordinary circumstances," said Phil Leigh, who follows E*Trade for investment firm Raymond James Financial. "It's what you'd expect of any company growing from infancy to youth."

The Dow Jones Industrial Average was down more than 200 points in midday trading, fueled by jitters about the Asian economy and by fallout from U.S. strikes on Afghanistan and Sudan. Nearly 550 million shares changed hands. (See related story)

"We're doing fine today," said a spokeswoman for online trading at Quick & Reilly. "Volumes are up slightly, but we've built in a lot of extra capacity." Quick & Reilly's Web sites include SureTrade and QuickWay Net.

E*Trade said traffic this quarter is up slightly from the average of 29,000 trades the electronic brokerage averaged last quarter, but this week's traffic is "very much within normal boundaries for us," a spokeswoman said.

A spokeswoman for Charles Schwab also reported that trading had remained steady this week, and that users were not experiencing any unusual problems.

Jeff Pelline contributed to this report.