Fidelity, the largest US brokerage, at last seems to be making a serious effort in international markets, with the decision to open its international trading service to all account holders.
The firm has long had a decent set of overseas markets available for direct investment (as opposed to over the counter trading of foreign stocks in the US) and fees were generally not too excessive compared with peers. But the associated conditions were baffling – you needed a minimum balance of US$25,000 and over 120 trades per year or a balance of US$1,000,000. Any investor who met those criteria could and should find more suitable accounts at other brokers.
However, international trading is now available in accounts of all sizes, making it a reasonable proposition for the smaller investor. With another five markets just added (Mexico, New Zealand, Singapore, Sweden and Switzerland), it covers a good proportion of the major markets.
Many investors can still do better elsewhere, but this is a much more competitive product than before. The interesting question now is how Charles Schwab will respond, given that its international trading service – which revolve around expensive broker-assisted trades and is consequently rather pricey – is now looking a bit dated.
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