By Saqib Iqbal Ahmed and Trevor Hunnicutt
NEW YORK (Reuters) - BlackRock Inc, the world's largest asset manager, reported first-quarter profit that exceeded expectations and raked in $65 billion of new investor cash as global financial markets rebounded from a volatile fourth quarter.
Total assets under management grew 3% to $6.52 trillion in the quarter through March 31 from a year earlier, amid a broad-based rebound in global equity markets. Assets had dipped below $6 trillion amid market turmoil late last year.
Total quarterly net inflows across all product types jumped 13.6 percent to $64.67 billion from a year earlier.
Overall, the company sold $59 billion in stock, bond and other "long-term" investment funds, up from the $43.6 billion in the quarter ended Dec. 31.
BlackRock shares were up 2.2% at $461.56 in early trading.
The U.S. economy is speeding up again after a slowdown and the market is getting ready for "huge" inflows into stocks, BlackRock Inc's Chief Executive Larry Fink told Reuters in an interview on Tuesday.
"I believe people are still under-risked, despite the big rebound," Fink said.
The benchmark S&P 500 stock index, which sank 14 percent in the final three months of 2018, rebounded by 13 percent in the first quarter, its best performance since the third quarter of 2009.
BlackRock lost more than $26 billion in its equity portfolio during the first quarter, but this was more than offset by a jump in fixed income of nearly $80 billion. Long-term investments rose by $59 billion.
"Investment flows look stronger than we anticipated," said Kyle Sanders, an analyst with St. Louis-based financial services firm Edward Jones.
"BlackRock has a really strong reputation in fixed income management and it looks like that asset class came back into favor with interest rates kind of dipping lower. I think that drove better-than-expected asset flows," said Sanders.
Institutional fund net inflows grew nearly nine-fold to $29.12 billion from a year ago.
Net income attributable to BlackRock fell to $1.05 billion, or $6.61 per share, in the first quarter, from $1.09 billion, or $6.68 per share, a year earlier. That well exceeded analysts' expectations for a profit of $6.13 per share, according to IBES data from Refinitiv.
BlackRock said its iShares-branded ETFs took in $30.69 billion of new money, compared with $81.40 billion in the fourth quarter.
Revenue from technology services, a key area of focus for BlackRock, grew 11 percent to $204 million.
Still, the company continued to feel the pinch from fee pressures amid an ongoing industry-wide shift from high-fee actively managed mutual funds to low-fee passive-investment products.
Base fees dropped 5% year-over-year, mainly due to the negative markets in the fourth quarter and a stronger U.S. dollar that eroded the fees they collect, BlackRock said.
"I think it was pretty well known that fees would be down, not just for BlackRock but for any asset manager just because those are based on an average of market values throughout the quarter and we started the quarter at such a low point," said Edward Jones' Sanders.
(Reporting by Saqib Iqbal Ahmed; Additional reporting by Bharath Manjesh in Bengaluru; Editing by Sriraj Kalluvila and Bernadette Baum)