Waddell & Reed Financial, the Overland Park, Kansas, mutual fund complex, said it earned $45.6 million, or $0.53 per diluted share, in the first quarter.

That is down from net income of $46.4 million, or $0.54 per diluted share, in the fourth quarter of 2010.

But it is up compared to a year ago. In the first quarter of 2010, it reported net income of $35.9 million, or $0.42 per diluted share.

Operating income was $74.8 million in the first quarter, an increase of 7% from the fourth quarter and 28% compared to 2010. Its operating margin was 25.2%, up four-tenths of a percent.

Gross sales during the quarter totaled $6.6 billion, an increase of 16% from the fourth quarter and 7% compared to the first quarter of 2010.

Inflows were $1.9 billion, compared to $1.2 billion during the previous quarter and $2.8 billion during the same period last year.

Sales through advisers rose 20%, year over year, to $1.1 billion. Sales through its wholesale channel were $4.7 billion, up 7%. Sales through institutions were $0.8 billion compared to $1.1 billion during the previous quarter and flat with the same period last year.

On May 6,  2010, Waddell & Reed sold 75,000 E-mini S&P contracts that by some accounts was a trigger point for the Flash Crash of that day. But Waddell & Reed was not cited by regulators as triggering the sudden fall of market prices, where some shares in big name stocks fell to a penny.