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Ameritrade sees weaker sales, wider loss in 1Q

    Ameritrade warned Monday that it would post a wider-than-expected loss in its first quarter on disappointing sales.

    The online trading firm told investors to brace themselves for a loss of between 12 cents to 14 cents a share in the quarter.

    Ameritrade (Nasdaq: AMTD) shares fell 97 cents to $7.88 shortly after the release.

    It now expects sales in the neighborhood of $130 million, well below analysts’ estimates of $142.6 million.

    First Call Corp. consensus pegged Ameritrade for a loss of 5 cents a share in the quarter.

    The company also announced plans to cut 230 employees from offices in Forth Worth, Texas, and Omaha, Neb., from a total of about 2,500 employees.

    Among other widely held online brokerage stocks, E*Trade Group (Nasdaq: EGRP) was off 50 cents to $9.19; Charles Schwab (NYSE: SCH) fell $1.13 to $28.50 and DLJ Direct (NYSE: DIR) was unchanged at $4.13.

    Last quarter, Ameritrade topped analysts’ estimates when it posted a profit of $286,000 on sales of $133.8 million.

    The stock moved as high as $25.13 in March before falling to a low of $6.75 in December.

    Ten of the 17 analysts tracking the stock rate it either a “buy” or “strong buy.”