Future Profits with Oil ETFs

By Investopedia Staff | November 05, 2010 AAA

With gold being the major growth story in the commodity world, oil's ascent to $144 per barrel in July of 2008 is a distant memory. However, since bottoming in February 2009, oil has regained some of it previous glory to currently sit around at $86.61. As the economy recovers, industries with start increasing their oil consumption, which will cause the price of oil to bubble up. Let's take a look at a few oil focused exchange-traded funds that could be good additions to your portfolio in the mean time. (To learn more about ETFs, check out

5 Ways To Find A Winning ETF)

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) $37.37 -4.63% 0.45% $1.8B
PowerShares DB Oil ETF (NYSE:DBO) $26.76 -2.87% 0.75% $561M
U.S. 12 Month Oil ETF (NYSE:USL) $40.78 +1.14% 0.60% $150.9M


Crude Focus
The PowerShares DB Oil ETF is current down a few percentage points among the ETFs listed above in terms of returns since the beginning of the year. The DBO fund is composed of futures contracts on light sweet crude oil (West Texas Intermediate). DBO's 0.75% expense ratio is well above the 0.09% an investor would pay for the SPDRS S&P 500 Index Fund (NYSE:SPY), and it is the most expensive among its peers.

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 is the only one of the 3 funds that is yielding positive returns (albeit a slight one), suggesting that the 12-month average strategy may add 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 future upward movement of oil prices. (For more on the oil industry, see our Oil And Gas Industry Primer.)

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