Legg Mason on Tuesday reported $677.6 billion in assets under management as of March 31, up $4.9 billion from February, with analysts welcoming the group's first monthly net inflows for its fixed-income business in more than three years.
Fixed-income strategies, which have been the source of most Legg Mason outflows in recent years, ended March with $356.6 billion in assets, up $3.2 billion from February; equity assets edged up $900 million, and money market assets climbed $800 million.
The last time Legg Mason's fixed-income business reported positive inflows was December 2007, confirmed spokeswoman Mary Athridge. She would not elaborate on her company's March AUM announcement.
In research notes Tuesday, sell-side analysts estimated net inflows for March of more than $1 billion for the Legg Mason group's fixed-income offerings — mostly managed by bond affiliate Western Asset Management.
Roger A. Freeman, Barclays Capital equity research analyst, pegged Legg Mason's net fixed-income inflows for March at $1.8 billion, while Citigroup analyst William R. Katz estimated roughly $1.5 billion in bond-related inflows.
In the Citi note, Mr. Katz called the March AUM figures “an encouraging data point,” given that fixed-income outflows have been the biggest cloud hanging over investor sentiment toward Legg Mason. Mr. Katz is maintaining a “buy” recommendation on Legg Mason's stock; Mr. Freeman maintained his “overweight” recommendation.
A third analyst, who declined to be named, said while Legg Mason's March inflows were a positive surprise, it's too early to conclude that the firm is poised to enjoy a steady pickup in momentum.