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Commodities bull markets should be measured in terms of decades versus yearly trends that most investors cling to, as market economist Nikolai Kondratiev argued back in the 1920s. As gold and oil prices fell from their peaks several months ago, investors may be wondering whether now is the time to buy in or if commodities have hit an unexpected early exit from their bull run.

Investors should consider the following reviews of natural resource funds that have consistently outperformed the S&P 500 over the past three years. (To learn more about key commodities including lumber, oil and cotton, check out Commodities That Move The Markets.)

Energy & Metals
The Jennison Natural Resources Fund (Nasdaq:PGNAX) has been led by top holdings including natural gas and oil exploration firm Southwestern Energy (NYSE:SWN), mining concern Freeport McMoran Copper & Gold (NYSE:FCX) and integrated energy provider Suncor Energy (NYSE:SU). PGNAX's focus on energy and raw materials allowed the fund to return 16.3% annualized over the past three years. (To learn more about how to make money in the oil patch, check out Unearth Profits In Oil Exploration and Production.)

Coal Support
The Van Eck Global Hard Assets Fund's (Nasdaq:GHAAX) top holdings include oil and gas exploration firms Range Resources (NYSE:RRC) and Marathon Oil (NYSE:MRO). Electricity provider Mirant (NYSE:MIR) rounds out the fund's top three holdings. GHAAX performed slightly better than PGNAX, returning 19.67% annualized over the past three years while falling 12.9% since the beginning of the year. The fund was bolstered by positive returns from coal companies like Alpha Natural Resources (NYSE:ANR).

Refuge Found In Oil And Natural Gas Exploration
The Aberdeen Natural Resources Fund's (Nasdaq:GGNIX) top holdings also have another oil and gas exploration firm, Occidental Petroleum (NYSE:OXY), leading the portfolio. Other top holdings include deepwater oil driller Transocean (NYSE:RIG) and everyone's friend at the pump, ExxonMobil (NYSE:XOM). GGNIX has returned 18.53% annualized over the past three years, and it has held up the best among the group, dropping 9.56% since the beginning of the year. Strong returns from another oil and natural gas exploration firm, Petrohawk Energy (NYSE:HK), have helped keep this fund from falling below the others.

Final Thoughts
The S&P 500 has returned a slim 3% annualized over the past three years and is down 12.4% since the beginning of the year. If followers of economists like Nikolai are correct, the recent pullback in commodities should be viewed as an opportunity to participate versus a permanent downside correction.

*Note that fund return data is as of September 8, 2008.

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