The online/discount brokerage business closed out the final frame of 2011 on a positive note with a $10 billion, or 4.3%, quarterly gain in assets. December 2011 $238 billion in assets was marginally (1%) below December 2010 level, but meaningfully below the channel’s high-water mark of $253 billion recorded in the opening quarter of 2011. Also trending down in the fourth quarter of 2011 were trade volumes, down 15.7% from the same quarter a year before, all the more interesting since the fourth quarter trading slowdown came on the heels of the channel’s historical trading volume high reached in the first quarter of 2011. The current improving market conditions, and the expected seasonal ramp-up in investor activity in the RRSP season, appear to favor a bounce-back in trade volume in the first quarter of 2012. For more metrics and analysis of the online/discount brokerage business, look out for the Winter 2012 issue of the Retail Brokerage Report due out in early March. Posted by Matthew Goldstein firstname.lastname@example.org.