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Fund Firms to Suffer Market Hangover

Asset managers' earnings reports will flood in this week, and analysts have ratcheted down expectations for the period because of the market's weakness and lingering questions about rising interest rates and a broader economic slowdown.

But even as asset managers might have been burned in the second quarter by the market's decline and lighter cash flows from investors, analysts say the sector's recent woes have sent the lofty stocks to more reasonable prices.

The slew of fund manager reports kicks off with Legg Mason (LM) and Waddell & Reed (WDR) on Tuesday. Calamos Asset Management (CLMS) and AllianceBernstein (AB) follow on Wednesday.

Thursday will be the biggest day for asset manager releases, with giants T. Rowe Price (TROW), Janus (JNS), Amvescap (AVZ), Franklin Resources (BEN) and Federated Investors (FII) all reporting results.

Merrill Lynch analyst Guy Moszkowski recently trimmed his second-quarter earnings estimates for the group by an average of 2%, and his full-year forecasts by 2.6%. "We are adjusting estimates just ahead of the reporting season, lowering estimates to reflect equity declines in 2Q and what was probably a fairly slow net-flow quarter for many managers," Moszkowski wrote in a research note.

But he pointed out that "even so-so earnings may be greeted with relief," because the expectations are low for the quarter in light of the equity selloff and the first-quarter disappointments from Legg Mason and Janus.

Moszkowski also noted that lowered estimates are already reflected in share prices for many managers, and that they are "finally trading at more typical historical levels."

Matt Snowling, an analyst with Friedman Billings Ramsey, also sees a potential buying opportunity for stocks that he had seen as overvalued. "Although we have been unenthusiastic on asset manager stocks for several months, the recent selloff, coupled with still-strong cash flow generation, is now making the group more appealing for investors willing to stomach the market volatility," he wrote in a research note.

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