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NYSE specialist firm LaBranche said Monday it has hired bankers and will evaluate strategic alternatives -- which usually but not always includes selling itself. LaBranche also said it expects positive Q2 earnings before unrealized losses related to its investment in NYSE Euronext, but that it will report a net Q2 loss including the charges. The company also announced the sale of its Amex specialist unit to Cohen Securities for an undisclosed price. It also said it will take "a substantial non-cash charge for a write-down of intangible assets related to its entire LaBranche 09 07 2007 Chartspecialist business." Stock exchange market-makers, who once thrived on the floor of exchanges like the NYSE, have seen profits and margins shrink as traders move increasingly from the floor-based to electronic trading. Shares are up over 60% to $12.14 in pre-market trading.

Sources: Press release, MarketWatch, AP
Commentary: NYSE: Gains Are Far From Automatic -- Barron'sLow-Hanging Fruit on LaBranche? [Motley Fool]
Stocks/ETFs to watch: LaBranche & Co. Inc. (NYSE:LAB), NYSE Euronext (NYSE:NYX). Competitors: Van Der Moolen Holding NV (VDM)

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Source: Specialist Firm LaBranche Soars On Announcement It Will Explore Strategic Alternatives