New York research firm Strategic Insight reported Friday that mutual fund inflows for the first half of 2004 were about $190 billion, even after "dramatic monthly inflows through April" gave way to a "sharp decline in equity fund inflows" in May.

"If stock markets resume a positive price movement during the second half, 2004 will end up with the highest-ever annual inflows to long-term mutual funds," said Avi Nachmany, the company's director of research.

Strategic Insight said that amid the political turmoil and uncertainty of the markets, stock fund inflows "suggest extraordinary investment and personal confidence among investors." Especially factoring in the recent oil price rises and lack of stock appreciation, the report suggested that confidence alone is almost single-handedly carrying funds to these levels.

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