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Online Brokerages Slide as Bernie Sanders Talks New Taxes

Felice Maranz

(Bloomberg) -- Shares of online brokers including TD Ameritrade Holding Corp. and E*Trade Financial Corp. slid after Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders proposed canceling the nation’s outstanding $1.6 trillion of student debt and offsetting the cost with a tax on Wall Street transactions.

The Sanders plan would include a 0.5% tax on stock transactions, a 0.1% tax on bond trades and a .005% tax on derivatives transactions.

The financial transaction tax (FTT) “boogeyman” appearing on the campaign trail is weighing on the group, Compass Point senior policy analyst Isaac Boltansky said via email. “Whether clients are interested or not in the student loan proposal, the use of the FTT as a pay-for signaled that the issue would play a meaningful role in the Democratic presidential conversation.”

A new tax would probably hurt trading volume, Bloomberg Intelligence analyst Andrew Silverman said. A financial transaction tax may “cause the asset values of publicly offered stocks, bonds and futures to decline because the tax could cause demand to decline,” Silverman said.

Even so, Silverman sees such a tax as unlikely to pass anytime soon, “and even then only if Congress moves significantly to the left and the president is a Democrat, too.”

Shares of E*Trade fell as much as 3.7% Monday, to the lowest since March 22. TD Ameritrade dropped as much as 3.6%, to the lowest since January 2.

Charles Schwab Corp. fell as much as 3.5%, to the lowest since December 26. Analysts have recently flagged Schwab’s interest-rate sensitivity, with Deutsche Bank earlier this month cutting its rating on the stock to hold. Deutsche Bank at that time kept TD Ameritrade and E*Trade rated buy, given their “better interest rate sensitivity profiles, leverage to customer trading, and at least a modest possibility of a merger scenario between the two.”

Earlier in June, Cowen warned that the prospect of a financial transaction tax would get more attention ahead of the first Democratic presidential debate, presenting a recurring risk for exchanges and financial firms. Analyst Jaret Seiberg flagged candidates who’d previously called for a transaction tax, include Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and Senator Elizabeth Warren. In May, Sanders had introduced legislation that would impose a tax on trades of all stocks, bonds and derivatives.

Other stocks with declines on Monday included Tradeweb Markets Inc., down as much as 4.5%, Nasdaq Inc., with a drop of as much as 2%, and Virtu Financial Inc., down as much as 2.9%.

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