US firm unveils global stock trading services

E-Trade Financial unveiled a global trading platform that makes it the first major US discount brokerage to give customers the ability to trade foreign-listed stocks online, an Associated Press report said.

The Associated Press report said the pilot project, which begins with 1,000 E-Trade customers this week, allows them to buy, hold and sell stocks in Canada, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Japan and Britain.

The rollout is expected to take two months before all customers have access, and could one day expand to 42 international markets, the report said.

The report added that the launch unlocks thousands of stocks previously unavailable to online traders, and pressures top rivals Charles Schwab and TD Ameritrade Holding to make similar moves.

It also comes as stock exchanges in Asia have bounced to unprecedented highs and far outpaced Western markets.

Previously, retail investors who wanted to buy foreign stocks that were not listed on US exchanges as American Depositary Receipts had to call brokers and accept commission fees that topped $100.

E-Trade will charge a $20 commission, and also give customers the ability to move US dollar accounts into foreign currencies.

The ability to keep the commission low is because E-Trade already has operations set up in 15 countries where customers have access to both local and US stocks, the report said.