T. Rowe Price said Friday its second-quarter earnings rose as a post-war stock market rally and lower interest rates helped boost assets under management.

The Baltimore-based asset management firm posted a second-quarter net profit of $53.8 million, or 42 cents a share, up from the $51.9 million, or 40 cents a share, it earned in the same period last year. Wall Street analysts, on average, were expecting the company to earn 38 cents a share, according to Thomson Financial/First Call

Total revenue for the quarter dropped to $237.5 million from $240.3 million a year ago, but still managed to beat analysts’ consensus estimate. Investment advisory revenue slipped to $183.9 million from $189.7 million due to a drop-off in average mutual fund assets.

Total assets under management jumped to $161.2 billion from $139.9 billion last quarter, representing their highest level since the end of 2000, when they reached $166.7 billion. The increase reflected rising stock valuations and net cash inflows of nearly $4 billion in the quarter. T. Rowe Price funds have maintained a strong track record as 61% of them have earned an overall rating of four or five stars from Chicago-based fund tracker Morningstar.

"The relatively quick end to the U.S.-led war against Iraq; falling interest rates; and reductions in income, stock dividend, and capital gains taxes contributed to a resurgent stock market in the second quarter," said George Roche, the company’s chairman and president.

Looking ahead, Roche said that while it may take a while to recover from the stock excesses of the late 1990’s, long-term investors should continue to see a more welcoming environment moving forward.

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