Online trading in Europe is growing rapidly, with more than two million Europeans expected to open accounts for Internet-based share dealing this year alone.

The number of online trading accounts is expected to reach 4.4 million by the end of the year, growing from 1.85 million at the end of 1999, according to the International Data Corporation (IDC). This number is expected to reach 16.8 million by 2003.

Germany is taking to online trading faster than the rest of Europe, and IDC expects the online trading sector there to grow faster than the rest of Europe.

Sweden will also see rapid growth, particularly among retail investors. The UK market has been surprisingly slow to develop, despite boasting the largest number of online brokers in Europe, IDC said.

Online trading is also gaining in popularity in other European markets, including France, Italy and Switzerland.