A Safe New World For Futures?

Commodities indexes are hot, and they're luring big investors

To many investors, commodity futures are the ultimate roll of the dice, with the odds stacked firmly against them. Novice players, smitten with the lofty leverage, usually lose their shirts if not their wallets. Many who have taken a chance on managed futures--the mutual funds of the commodity business--have had little to show for it. In recent years, returns have lagged well behind the gains from U.S. stocks. And scandals such as Sumitomo Corp.'s copper debacle have made potential investors even more nervous.

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