The second quarter sent the stock market lurching through volatile highs and lows, putting everyone on edge.

But research firm Keefe, Bruyette & Woods found reasons to accentuate the positives on one particular class of stock: Publicly traded asset managers who are supposed to make sense of it all.

Although core growth trends, operating margins and assets under management declined slightly during the period, KBW said that this sector remains valuable.

Core growth declined an average of 0.4% last quarter, but KBW said asset management firms held up well given the way investors shed stocks during the quarter. Plus, strong fixed income flows and improving demand from institutions helped support flow trends, which KBW said should carry over into this quarter.

That is encouraging news, since retail equity flows are likely to remain challenging. AllianceBernstein Holding, Affiliated Managers Group, Invesco and Legg Mason were among firms where long-term organic growth trends improved, but according to KBW prospects weakened at Blackrock and T. Rowe Price, among others.

Assets under management declined 8%, but revenue increased by about 1% from the previous quarter. Some firms reaped higher fees and packed more working days into the quarter to help eek out gains.

Operating margins rose to an average of 33.6%, up from 29.6% a year earlier. They dipped slightly on quarter to quarter, though, because of higher distribution and general and accounting expenses.

On average, compensation costs were relatively flat. KBW said that it expects sequential revenue growth to be modest, making it difficult to improve margins in the near term.

KBW said that it expects traditional managers, like Affiliated and Franklin Resources, to continue to surge going forward.

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