In a rankings pileup, TD Waterhouse emerges in first place in the latest PowerRankings™ of online brokerages by Forrester Research, Inc. (Nasdaq: FORR). Forrester’s PowerRankings combines survey data from online consumers and unbiased testing to provide objective rankings of the leading US financial and eCommerce sites. The companies that rank below TD Waterhouse are Charles Schwab, CSFBdirect, Ameritrade, Datek, Fidelity, and E*TRADE.

“The rankings are so tight, with less than two points separating No. 1 TD Waterhouse and last-place E*TRADE,” said Tom Rhinelander, research director at Forrester. “With all the sites providing the basics, consumers have to decide what perks are important to them — whether it’s the security of having Schwab offices just around the corner or the excitement of a real-time, interactive tool like Datek’s Streamer.”

Twelve-dollar market-order trades, a retirement planner, and unlimited real-time quotes help TD Waterhouse claim victory. Although the site receives high marks from the Forrester shopper in areas like customer service, it has the lowest overall consumer marks of sites tested. And unlike many competitors’ sites, customers cannot choose what section of the site to start at during login.

Two-time winner Schwab falls to No. 2. The site offers easy trading and lots of extras like an asset allocator and wireless trading, but it charges $29.50 for basic trades — contributing to its dead-last ranking in value by both consumers and the Forrester shopper. Other weaknesses include its erratic customer support — they never sent email replies to two test messages.

CSFBdirect, the former DLJdirect, captures third place with speedy customer service. The user-friendly site provides a consistent interface with context-sensitive menus on both the public and customer-only sections. However, its $20 transactions, while cheaper than Schwab’s, are still pricier than most of its competitors. In addition, the site does not offer features like online bill payment or tools like a retirement planner.

Fourth-place Ameritrade finishes less than a point behind the leaders. Its $8 trades are a boon for budget-minded investors, but the site lacks freeform search, has an inconsistent interface, and doesn’t offer tools like a mutual fund selector. But confused customers shouldn’t despair — support is quick by email and phone.

For the latest PowerRankings, Forrester surveyed 10,000 consumers from the NPD Group’s online panel. These consumers identified the financial institutions that they have an online account with and rated their experiences. A team of Forrester shoppers then evaluated the experience on sites that have a statistically valid number of consumer respondents by performing a series of rigorous tests. The consumer data and Forrester shopper scores were then synthesized and weighted, with consumer views accounting for two-thirds of the overall PowerRankings. A complete set of PowerRankings results — both consumer and Forrester shopper data — is made available to all ranked companies free of charge.

Additional information about each of the categories, including a complete set of rankings and scores, can be found can be found at the PowerRankings Web site —