For example, crude prices increased 78% last year, but United States Oil (NYSEArca: USO) only gained around 19%, while iShares Dow Jones U.S. Oil and Gas Exploration (NYSEArca:IEO) gained around 41% and SPDR S&P Oil & Gas Exploration & Production (NYSEArca: XOP) returned around 40%. Satch Chada, managing director at Jefferies Asset Management LLC, says that funds that hold commodity companies may be benefiting from contango due to the markets predicting high future prices.

Commodity ETFs provide a pure play bet and an ETF that holds company stocks put investors in a situation where the profitability of the underlying company is a factor.

For more information on commodities, visit our commodity category.

Max Chen contributed to this article.