The ability to benefit from certain types of bad news raises one value of investing in oil, and that is as a hedge against inflation. However, if the commodity markets are too exotic or volatile for you, another route would be to invest in stocks of oil producers and exploration companies that benefit from higher oil prices.

Alternative investments in general

Two things help to make the case for alternative investments right now. One is the low level of bank rates and bond yields -- as long as savings account rates are below 1 percent and bond yields not much better, investors are going to be forced to look for more productive places to put their money. This helps explain the other thing that makes commodities look more attractive right now: the fairly improbable run the stock market has had so far this year. It has had a Teflon quality to it -- no bad news seems to stick to the stock market, and that's the kind of environment that should make investors skeptical.

Still, the unattractiveness of savings account rates and stocks does not mean that commodities are the answer. You would be wise to spend some time researching and following those markets thoroughly before taking the plunge -- commodity markets can be expensive places to trade, and the volatility can be extreme.

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