BlackRock’s first quarter earnings fell 24% to $84 million, or 62 cents per diluted common share. Operating income was $271 million and operating margin was 27.5%.

Net income was 21% higher than the fourth quarter of 2008 but 56% lower than the first quarter of 2008.

BlackRock said it was able to withstand market pressure on revenues and investments but to a “strong and diversified business model, cost discipline and reengineering.”

Assets under management ended the quarter at $1.283 trillion, down 2% since year-end and 6% year-over-year. Net new business totaled $5.6 billion during the quarter and $138.0 billion over the past 12 months.

“As the year began, investors reacted to the shock of the fourth quarter with further capitulation, driving markets to new lows in the first half of March,” said Laurence D. Fink, chairman and CEO of BlackRock. “As we anticipated last quarter, lagging real estate and private equity markets began to catch up, and declining net asset values in these products hurt both our clients and our balance sheet, with the adverse impact to us reflected in our income statement.”

Fink said that following the market’s rebound it March, he is hopeful that investors are regaining an appetite for risk, “although markets remain highly uncertain and sensitive to economic news, corporate earnings and signs of stability in housing.” Before we can know whether the economy and the markets have turned, real estate will have to show stability, Fink added.

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