BUSINESS has bounced back to life for many beleaguered brokerages with the Hong Kong stock exchange reporting the volume of shares traded on the exchange almost doubling over the first quarter of this year. Brokerages welcomed the improvement in revenue in the first quarter of 1996, but many are hesitant about the outlook for the rest of the year. The stock market rallies in January and February boosted commission income substantially compensating partly for brokerage fees in 1995 when down-sizing staff became the rage. Nial Gooding, dealing director at Kleinwort Benson Securities, said: 'The market will probably be quiet during the later half of the year. Historically, the first four months of the year are the busiest. It goes downhill from there.' This pattern looks likely for 1996 as the first quarter had shown impressive trading volume, which many brokerages believe may slide over the remaining quarters of the year. The value of shares traded, was $373.84 billion for the first three months, compared with $196.02 billion for the same period last year, a rise of 90 per cent. The market volume, or the number of shares traded, was up 98 per cent to 139.48 billion shares during the first quarter this year, against 60.96 billion shares in 1995. The average daily turnover was $6.13 billion for the first quarter of this year, against $3.21 billion in 1995. Increase in trading volume means more commission income because brokers' commissions are set at a fixed percentage of the transaction value. Many brokerages said they were likely to tread cautiously for fear that United States interest rates might trend upwards on further strengthening of the US economy. The head of sales at a European brokerage said: 'It was a good start to the year, but we are far from certain that the second quarter will be decent. 'We are definitely not going to see a lot of champagne corks popping based on January's figures.' According to the Stock Exchange of Hong Kong, the best month this year was January, which saw an average daily turnover of $7.08 billion, compared with a meagre $2.856 billion in January 1995. The Hang Seng Index gained 8.8 per cent in the first quarter, but only advanced 4.8 per cent in the same period in 1995. Howard Gorges, managing director of South China Brokerage, said: 'We got off to a flying start this year. Most houses were involved in a number of deals, whether it was a derivative issue, share placement or initial public offerings.' Among the houses that had a profitable quarter was Peregrine Brokerage, the investment banking arm of Peregrine Investment Holdings. Peregrine handled a sizeable amount of the first quarter's share placement business including Citic Pacific's $3.24 billion new share issue, Citic's $3.6 billion sale of a Hongkong Telecommunications stake and the Cheung Kong (Holding) $5.3 billion share placement. Then there were Morgan Stanley Asia underwriting the $3.95 billion share placement by Sun Hung Kai Properties and Credit Lyonnais' involvement in the initial public offering of Henderson China.