Morningstar estimates that the top 25 mutual fund companies took in $12.4 billion in net inflows in the first quarter, with the research firm’s Director of Personal Finance Christine Benz telling Reuters, “I would imagine that the worst is over for a lot of these firms. It’s hard to imagine a scenario that’s worse than the fourth quarter was.”

Indeed, in the fourth quarter, the top 25 fund firms lost $110.9 billion, and throughout the year, they lost $55.2 billion.

Bearing out this development, Franklin Resources reported that net outflows from its mutual funds slowed to $5.1 billion in the first quarter, from $18.7 billion in the fourth quarter of 2008.

“It’s been another difficult quarter in the asset management industry, but we are pleased to see some positive developments, particularly around flows,” said Franklin CEO Greg Johnson during an earnings call.

Likewise, Waddell & Reed reported net inflows of $1 billion in the fourth quarter, versus outflows of $1.8 billion in the previous period, and T. Rowe Price took in $4.5 billion in the first quarter, compared with outflows of $2.4 billion in the fourth quarter.

Perhaps directly correlated to this, Crane Data reported that money market fund assets declined by over $100 billion, or 2.6%, in the six weeks through April 22, the biggest decline since a $121 billion drop in the one week following Reserve Funds’ Primary Fund breaking the buck on Sept. 15, 2008.

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