Mutual funds that invest in alternative types of securities, ranging from commodities to private equity investments, have been hot. But the heat appears to be cooling off.

On the plus side: alternative mutual funds saw inflows of $23.2 billion in 2011, according to Morningstar's latest annual survey examining usage of alternative investments among institutions and financial advisors. Not counting the "nontraditional" bond category, they still took in $14.2 billion Meanwhile, U.S. equity mutual funds bled $84.7 billion.

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