Several wirehouses have formed online bond-trading consortiums in the past few months in an attempt to compete with independent bond-trading Web sites.

PaineWebber, Goldman Sachs and Spear Leeds & Kellogg were expected to launch a Web-based bond-trading system called BondDesk.com this month. The online marketplace shows the fixed-income inventories from the participating firms to both brokers and clients.

BondDesk.com is being incorporated into PaineWebber's Edge online service. Edge clients will execute trades through the Bonds Online section. Buyers will not know whose inventory they are accessing.

"I think it's a terrific idea," says one PaineWebber broker. "Bond buyers are the biggest pain in the ass--they're always shopping you. Anything that gets them out of your hair, but doesn't take money out of your pocket, is great."

The service will not make bond-trading desks obsolete, says Robert Silver, director of operations/ service and systems for PaineWebber in New York. While BondDesk.com allows a broker at PaineWebber to purchase bonds from another firm's inventory, it also provides the bond trader with a larger sales audience, he says.

"We think this is a great growth area, similar to the way the online equity markets grew," Silver says.

BondDesk.com CEO Charles Almond says the system also gives brokers the ability to route sell offers to the Street, rather than selling just to their own firm's bond desk. And the software that comes with BondDesk.com allows reps to build fixed-income portfolio reports, Almond says.

In addition, BondDesk.com offers a municipal bond-trading service called MuniGroup.com.

Another municipal bond-trading consortium called TheMuniCenter.com was launched in May by Morgan Stanley Dean Witter, Merrill Lynch, Salomon Smith Barney and Chapdelaine Electronic Brokerage. It promises to deliver similar benefits to member firms--centralized inventories, price transparency and live trades.

The Web site is accessible only to institutional representatives at participating broker/dealers and is not used by retail reps, according to officials at SSB and Merrill.