Two consecutive quarters of job gains and strong fourth-quarter earnings reports will tell fund managers and investors whether or not the U.S. economy is back on track and the market correction and profit-taking that took hold in many sectors on Sept. 20 will cease.

But even if these economic indicators disappoint, the mutual fund industry is likely to continue to see the strong inflows it has experienced since April, simply because investors are anxious to get back into a game that has beaten them for the past three years. Investors in 401(k)s and other retirement plans are especially eager to make up for lost time. And even if there is an "earnings disaster," it would only cause a 5% to 10% dip from the rally, and the stock market would still end the year in the black.

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