Waddell & Reed Shares Dropped: What You Need to Know

Although we don't believe in timing the market or panicking over market movements, we do like to keep an eye on big changes -- just in case they're material to our investing thesis.

What: Shares of financial-services specialist Waddell & Reed (NYS: WDR) took a beating today, falling as much as 10% in intraday trading before closing down 7.2%.

So what: Investors don't have to look far for the reason for Waddell & Reed's dip today. The company reported its fourth-quarter results, and the bottom line was worse than what was hoped for. For the quarter, the company reported $291 million in operating revenue and $0.47 in earnings per share. Operating revenue was up $10 million from the same quarter in 2010, but per-share profit slipped from $0.54.

Estimates from analysts on Wall Street averaged to $0.48 in earnings per share and $267 million in revenue.

Now what: For the fourth quarter, net inflows for the company were $42 million versus $1.3 billion in the third quarter and $1.2 billion in the fourth quarter of 2010. That lackluster performance underscores the challenges that Waddell & Reed had to deal with in 2011 brought on by market volatility and loss of investor confidence in the markets in general.

Will this all reverse for the company in 2012? I'm hesitant to try to make any crystal-ball calls on the broad market -- which will be a major ingredient in whether investors come back to the company's funds -- but one issue for investors to keep an eye on is the fund rankings for Waddell & Reed. While its funds have held up well over longer periods of time, many have slipped in shorter time periods, which can help keep investors away.

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