Switching On Some New Power Power At Utilities

Utility companies have traditionally been the "chicken soup" selection on investment menus - bland but nutritious.

Long regarded as the ideal "widows and orphans" investments, they produced a small but guaranteed return.

They were always local and always told by regulators how much to spend, to charge customers for their natural gas or electricity, even to earn. Ultraconservative, ultra-safe.

Ultra-gone.

The utility recipe is changing, and mutual funds that invest in them are no longer the staid, dull fare of before.

Utilities have been and are being deregulated. They're increasingly able to set their own rates and earn their own profits. That means the potential for higher returns and risk.

Many utility funds throw still more spice to the mix, investing in telecommunications companies. Some of these firms are aggressive and on the cutting edge of technology. Some are heavily involved overseas.

So when you get ready to order a utility fund, check out the ingredients first.

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