* Feb. trading levels down 10 pct y/o/y, up 9 pct m/o/m
* Analyst says results below forecast
* Client assets up 4 pct m/o/m, in line with market rise
March 8 (Reuters) - Discount brokerage TD Ameritrade Holding Corp said Thursday that its client trading levels were down 10 percent in February compared with a year earlier but up 9 percent from January, as retail investors eased back into the improving equity markets.
The Omaha-based broker said its clients made an average of 409,000 trades a day in February.
David J. Chiaverini, an analyst at BMO Capital Markets, said the results were below his expectation of a 10 percent to 15 percent rise over January.
Trading volumes fell sharply from mid-December and into January due to ongoing concerns over the debt crisis in Europe and the effect it might have on the fragile U.S. economy, but have been slowly improving.
Omaha-based TD Ameritrade said its client assets were up 8 percent from a year earlier, and up 4 percent from January, at $441.8 billion, in line with the rise in the Standard & Poor's 500 index in the month.
Average spread-based balances -- which include client and brokerage-related assets such as client margin balances, segregated cash, and insured deposit account balances -- were up 21 percent from February 2011 but down 1 percent from January at $73.5 billion.
Chiaverini said lower month-to-month insured deposit account balances were likely due to clients moving money from cash back into the markets.
Average fee-based balances -- which include client assets invested in money market funds and other mutual funds -- were up 9 percent from a year earlier and up 5 percent from January, at $85.4 billion.
TD Ameritrade rivals Charles Schwab Corp and E*Trade Financial Corp are expected to report their February metrics later in the month.