Merrill Downgrades Knight Trading to Neutral

The brokerage firm says May average daily equity volume fell 25%

Merrill Lynch downgraded Knight Trading (NITE ) to neutral from buy.

Analyst Colin Clark says EPS is under pressure from a sharp fall in equity volume, less options trading, and weak performance at the Deephaven hedge fund unit. He thinks a low-volume environment could persist throughout the summer. He's concerned recent market share deterioration could signal potential secular problems.

Clark expects the company to face mounting competition from large traditional broker and dealers in the OTC Bulletin Board market. He cut the 21 cents second-quarter EPS estimate to 14 cents and cut the 90 cents 2004 estimate to 80 cents. He ses 97 cents 2005 EPS.

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