A study conducted by financial services market research firm Dalbar shows that the average equity mutual fund investor beat the S&P 500 last year, netting returns of 12.6%, compared to the 10.9% returned by the S&P 500.

Unlike previous years, when inflows decreased as the S&P 500 declined, new investments continued to pour into equity funds despite the ups and downs of 2004.

The late 2004 surge pushed 20-year investor returns ahead of inflation and lifted the shorter three- and five-year returns past the S&P 500.

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