I'd also like to remind you that under Regulation FD, management may only address questions of a material nature from the investment community in a public forum. So please ask all such questions during this call.
Now, I'll turn the call over to Peter.
Thanks, Andrea, and thanks everybody for joining for our first quarter earnings call. As Andrea noted, I will go business highlights, Ed will then go with the financials and our COO, Jim Gingrich who is here as well will join Ed and I for questions at the end.
Let's start the morning with Slide 3. In a more constructive operating environment, we were able to deliver better investment preference for our clients and much stronger financial results this quarter than last.
Gross sales were $18.1 billion and were up 21% from the fourth quarter of 2011 and 15% from the same period last year. That is our highest since the second quarter of 2010 when sales were $18.8 billion, very close to this quarter's number.
Net outflows were down versus prior periods and that includes the impact of last years AXA asset sales which I will discuss in a moment. AUM increased 3% from yearend 2011 due to both, market appreciation and net new flows to retail, a business that performed extremely well in the first quarter.
Our retail strength is clear from the distribution channel view on Slide 4, should we take a look. Retail gross sales of $12.9 billion were 81% higher than the fourth quarter and 66% higher than 2011s quarterly average.
This is our best retail sales quarter since the second quarter of '07 when sales were $13.6 billion, again pretty close to this years' level. While Asia remains our strongest market, we had growth across regions, asset classes and both new and long standing products. As a result, retail had net inflows of $2.3 billion, our first positive flow quarter since early 2010 when inflows were $2.5 billion.