Commodities exchange traded funds started out strong in 2011 but have trended lower in the back half of the year on concerns over growth slowdowns in Europe and China.

Yet investors looking for a rebound may want to consider the $160 million Market Vectors Hard Asset Producers Fund (NYSEArca: HAP) as an alternative to commodities.

“HAP holds the most powerful names in the commodity production space and can be used as an alternative to futures-based broad commodity vehicles,” wrote Abraham Ballin for Morningstar, in a fund analysis. “The equity securities that HAP holds don’t suffer from the roll-yield drag phenomenon that has plagued futures-based contract products in recent years. Additionally, using equities to gain commodities exposure can introduce investors to levels of operational leverage that provide extra sensitivity to commodity price movements under the right circumstances.” [Farming Your Agriculture ETF Options]

The hard assets ETF is a one-shot tool that gives investors access to fundamental commodity growth. The ETF invests in equities rather than futures contracts,which eliminates the risk of contango. [Commodity ETFs: Understanding Contango]

The index the fund tracks is the Rogers-Van Eck Hard Assets Producers Index, which is comprised of a global list of companies engaged in the production and distribution end of hard assets and related services. The energy and agriculture sub-sectors dominate the index.  The index was conceived with the help of Jim Rogers, the famous commodity investor.

Factors that can drive up the energy sector include higher agriculture prices, and growing demand, Morningstar notes. Demand has increased over the years and economic and population growth overseas in emerging markets is a major price catalyst. Future growth in emerging markets will continue to put pressure on the limited supplies of the Earth’s natural resources. [Commodity Investing: ETFs or Mutual Funds?]