The third quarter's stock market volatility took its toll in terms of market share on mutual fund companies that didn't offer equity portfolios already well-established in the brokerage community, a new study shows.

For several companies, even as they raked in new money, market share remained flat or declined during the three months ended Sept. 30, according to a study by Financial Research Corp., Chicago. Many of these companies, including big names like Federated Investors and Dreyfus Corp., are considered to be bond fund shops, niche players with aggressive portfolios, or sector funds.

Of 28 fund companies that sell through brokers, the ones that captured market share in the third quarter include Putnam Investments, OppenheimerFunds Inc., Aim Management, Fidelity Investments' Advisor Funds, Massachusetts Financial Services, John Hancock Funds, Fred Alger Management Inc., and Seligman Financial Services Inc. All offer well-known equity funds with long track records.

"There are some fund companies that are moving back into the top tier on the backs of a few equity funds that are household names with brokers," said Dennis Dolego, a principal at Financial Research Corp.

The fund industry has grown to more than 400 companies, and competition is fierce. Even the slightest movements in market share - hundredths of a percentage point - could represent billions of dollars, Mr. Dolego said.

And as the stock market rises and gets frothy, brokers are less likely to take risks on new funds.

"There are 15 gorilla funds out there that account for a significant market share," acknowledged James Greenawalt, executive vice president in charge of sales at Zurich-Kemper Investments. "Brokers aren't going to go away from them unless those funds blow up."

Zurich, which has 60% of its assets in bond funds, saw its market share slip to 3.45% in the third quarter from 3.5% in the second, according to Financial Research.

On the other hand, Boston-based Putnam boasted the three portfolios that sold the most through financial advisers during this period, according to the Financial Research data.

The Putnam New Opportunity Fund, Putnam Fund for Income and Growth, and Putnam Voyager Fund helped the nation's fifth-largest fund company post the quarter's largest rise in market share. Its share of fund assets rose to 12.54%, from 11.99% the previous quarter.

Indeed, the 39-year-old Putnam income and growth fund has become a staple at bank brokerages whose investors tend to be more conservative than most.

The brokers "we've hired are familiar with Putnam Fund for Growth and Income and sold it in their past lives," said Cynthia Winslow, sales director at Bank of Boston Corp.'s brokerage.

Fidelity saw a slight pickup in share for its adviser-sold funds, while the funds it sells directly to investors decreased. The scarier markets get, the more Fidelity believes customers will go to advisers, said John Mulherin, chief operating officer of Fidelity Investments Institutional Services Co.

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