Man Group Plc and Winton Capital Management Ltd. are off to their best start in seven years as falling stock markets and soaring gold and wheat prices propel profits for funds that trade commodities and financial futures. Managed futures funds gained by an average 6.3 percent in the first quarter, the most since 2001, according to the Newedge CTA Index. The strategy rose the most among eight hedge-fund categories as hedge funds fell an average 3.9 percent, according to New York-based Morgan Stanley's MSCI Hedge Invest Index. Commodities futures climbed to new highs in the quarter, while the U.S. dollar fell to a record low 1.58 euros. The moves, which extended trends from 2007, created a profitable environment for managed futures funds, which use banks of computers to weed through thousands of data points to trade futures ranging from U.S. Treasury bonds to Malaysian palm oil. ``We can particularly benefit in a prolonged crisis because it's a long trend,'' said Tim Wong, head of Man's AHL Diversified Plc unit, in an interview from his office on London's Sugar Quay, a remnant of Man's roots as a sugar broker 225 years ago. ``When markets are directionless, it's the worst time.'' AHL, the trading system behind about $22 billion in Man funds, rose 13 percent in the quarter, its best start since 2001, according to filings with the U.K.'s Regulatory News Service. London-based Winton Capital's $6.3 billion Winton Futures Fund gained 11 percent, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601087&sid=aMyQ3dld4Mc4&refer=home Well done, colleagues !