Energy investments have been running on empty this year. "Among the stock market categories we follow, equity energy funds are last in 2010," says Rob Wherry, a mutual fund analyst at Morningstar. "In late October, the category was up only 1%. Real estate funds, by comparison, were up 25%." The average domestic equity fund was up about 5% for the year.

Does energy offer buy-low opportunities now? "Investors must realize that energy investments can be volatile," Wherry says. "They swing between down periods and stellar years. Investors need patience, but if they have a long time horizon, energy can deliver good results."

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