The explosive growth of alternative exchange-traded funds-to more than $146 billion today from approximately $42 billion five years ago-has raised the question of whether they've met the expectations of their investors.

These vehicles-defined as ETFs that seek exposure to commodities and futures markets or that provide a leveraged, short, or hedge fund-like investment strategy-have less than one-fifth the assets of much older and widely accepted long-only equity ETFs. However, the buzz around alternative ETFs is much louder.

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