Mutual fund giant T. Rowe Price (NASDAQ:TROW) reported third-quarter earnings of $0.62 per share, which was a year-over-year increase of 25% according to the company and missed estimates by a penny. Revenues came in at $316 million, which was a year-over-year increase of 22% and topped the Reuters consensus by just more than $1 million. Investors liked what they saw, though, sending shares up by more than 4% in trading today.

The company has increased assets under management across all segments. The firm had $212 billion under management as of Sept. 30, which included $130 billion in mutual funds distributed in the U.S. It manages other assets in separate accounts, offshore mutual funds, variable annuities, and mutual funds for which it is the subadvisor. The performance of the company's funds has also been outstanding, as CEO George Roche commented that 81% of T. Rowe Price's funds have surpassed their Lipper averages on a total return basis for one-, three-, and five-year periods.

Mr. Roche is clearly optimistic about the future, saying that corporate earnings remain strong and that T. Rowe Price maintains a positive outlook for the economy and the market, despite the various issues confronting financial markets.

So should you consider buying this stock? I am a big believer in the aging of the American population as an important investment theme. Mutual fund companies clearly will play a role as baby boomers cycle through their peak earnings years and then retirement. Here I believe T. Rowe Price will be a winner, but that is a long-term look. In the short term, there are many issues that the financials services industry will have to deal with: various legal accusations, reforms, or perhaps even an overhaul of the industry.

Thus far, T. Rowe Price has come through the scandals unscathed, and I have no reason to think that will change. Over the last year, T. Rowe Price is up almost 30% compared with the Investment Managers Index (INDEX: SMQ), which is up by high single digits over the same time. Although T. Rowe Price has handily outperformed the index, the charts do look similar. The most important short-term obstacle, I believe, is whether the stock will continue to outperform even if things get worse before they get better for the fund industry.

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Fool contributor Roger Nusbaum is an investment manager and wildland firefighter in Prescott, Ariz. At press time, neither he nor his clients owned any stocks mentioned.