It was a fine year for brokerage firms—especially their stocks. No one came up bigger than Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley in terms of percentage gains. Goldman reported record profits; its stock rose 59 percent year-to-date through Dec. 18 to $203.24 a share. Morgan experienced a much-needed turnaround and ended the year (through Dec. 18) with its stock surging about 40 percent to $80.37 a share. Of course, we should mention Merrill Lynch, which came up strong again, proving its knack for consistency in the marketplace. The firm’s stock rose 35 percent to $91.52.