The boundary element method (BEM) in current usage, is based on the displacement boundary integral equation. The current practice of computing stresses in the BEM involves the use of a two-tier approach: (i) numerical differentiation of the displacement field at the boundary, and (ii) analytical differentiation of the displacement integral equation at the source point in the interior. A new direct integral equation for the displacement gradient is proposed here, to obviate this two-tier approach. The new direct boundary integral equation for displacement gradients has a lower order singularity than in the standard formulation, and is quite tractable from a numerical view point. Numerical results are presented to illustrate the advantages of the present approach.