Investing in the current dismal market requires going back to basics, according to Kenneth Turek, manager of Northern Funds’ Northern Mid Cap Growth Fund (NOMCX).

For the fund, which has assets of $247 million and focuses on stocks with a market capitalization of between $2 billion and $10 billion, that means looking for companies that produce highly consistent earnings and have competent leaders at the helm. Mr. Turek is part of Northern’s team of growth fund managers, who oversee nine funds in addition to the Mid Cap fund.

“We talk with management to be sure that we are confident in the people, and we look for companies that do something unique to drive earnings,” Mr. Turek says. “In this economy, it doesn’t have to be a home run, but they need to be tweaking their business to get stronger revenues or a bigger market share.”

Launched in 1988, the fund had a standout year in 1999, gaining more than 90%. It has had down years since, including this one, during which it has so far fallen nearly 18%. That’s still better than the fund’s benchmark, the Russell Mid Cap Growth Index, which is off about 30% and broader market indexes such as the Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index, which has fallen about 24% this year.

Launched in 1988, the fund had a standout year in 1999, gaining more than 90%. It has had down years since, including this one, during which it has so far fallen nearly 18%. That’s still better than the fund’s benchmark, the Russell Mid Cap Growth Index, which is off about 30% and broader market indexes such as the Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index, which has fallen about 24% this year.

Northern’s fund managers expect the U.S. economy to grow 2% to 3% this year — not enough to bring corporate earnings back to life, says Mr. Turek. “We don’t see much of an increase in inflation or interest rates,” he says. “Overall, we’re hoping that corporate earnings begin to grow sometime in 2003.”

As for the strategy of the Northern growth managers at the moment, he says, “We’re are picking individual stocks, rather than looking at sectors, although we do feel that some sectors perform better or worse in a weak economy.

Top holdings, at 2.9% each of the total portfolio, include Triad Hospitals Inc. (TRI) And Boston Scientific Corp. (BSX).