Tickers in this Article: DBO, USO, USL, SPY
The upswing in oil prices from the mid-$50s at the beginning of April to near $68 at the beginning of May is reminiscent of oil's ascent to $144 per barrel in July of 2008. While the rising price of oil and its correlation to rising prices at the pump may be up for debate, the fact remains that the current average price for regular gasoline is $2.619 up from $2.073 just one month ago according to the AAA's June 9 Daily Fuel Gauge Report. Let's take a look at which oil focused exchange-traded funds have done the best job of capitalizing on rising oil. (To learn more about ETFs, check out our Exchange Traded Funds special Feature.)

IN PICTURES: 20 Tools For Building Up Your Portfolio

ETF
NAV
Year-to-Date
Expense Ratio
Total Assets
U.S. Oil Fund ETF (NYSE:USO)
.90
14.63%
0.45%
.8B
PowerShares DB Oil ETF (NYSE:DBO)
.06
35.09%
0.50%
8M
U.S. 12 Month Oil ETF (NYSE:USL)
.40
28.47%
0.60%
6M
January 1, 2009 – June 9, 2009

Crude Focus
The PowerShares DB Oil ETF is the current leader among the ETFs listed above in terms of returns since the beginning of the year through June 9. The DBO fund is composed of futures contracts on light sweet crude oil (West Texas Intermediate). The fund lost just over 40% of its value during 2008, but has moved upward steadily since the beginning of March. DBO's 0.50% expense ratio is well above the 0.09% an investor would pay for the SPDRS S&P 500 Index Fund (NYSE:SPY), but among its peers mentioned it falls right in the middle.

Crude Oil Plus
The U.S. Oil ETF also tracks the performance of light, sweet crude oil (WTI). In addition to holding futures contracts on light sweet crude oil, the USO fund may also invest in non-negotiated contracts with less liquidity than futures contracts and in taxable money market funds like the Goldman Sachs (NYSE:GS) FS Government Select. Leading the group of oil ETFs in terms of total assets, the USO fund also has the lowest expense ratio of 0.45%.

A Dozen in the Other
The U.S. 12 Month Oil ETF tracks the performance of light, sweet crude oil (WTI) by calculating the daily movement of the average price of 12 futures contracts on crude oil. The USL fund recoiled just over 42% last year while its sister fund, USO, was down nearly 55%, suggesting that the 12-month average strategy adds a buffer against downward oil price momentum. (For more, see Fueling Futures In The Energy Market.)

Final Thoughts
Oil futures can be a volatile addition to any portfolio, so it's helpful to understand available ETF options that investors can choose from in order to capture the upward movement of oil prices. (For more on the oil industry, see our Oil And Gas Industry Primer.)

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