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Oil ETFs Rose More than Oil Last Week

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Oil-tracking ETFs

Between December 28 and January 4, the United States Oil ETF (USO), United States 12-Month Oil ETF (USL), and ProShares Ultra Bloomberg Crude Oil ETF (UCO) rose 6.8%, 7.4%, and 14%, respectively. These ETFs track US crude oil futures. USO holds active US crude oil futures, while USL holds US crude oil futures deliverable for each of the next 12 months. UCO tracks daily changes in the Bloomberg WTI Crude Oil Subindex.

USO and USL outperformed US crude oil February futures, which rose 5.8% last week. Higher oil prices can boost oil-weighted stocks. California Resources (CRC), Callon Petroleum (CPE), and Denbury Resources (DNR), the strongest oil-weighted stocks, rose 14%, 14%, and 27.3%, respectively, last week.

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Long-term returns and forward curve

Between February 11, 2016, and January 4, 2018, US crude oil active futures rose 83% from their 12-year low. USO, USL, and UCO rose 27.4%, 33.3%, and 13%, respectively.

A negative roll yield, which occurs when expiring futures’ contract prices are lower than the following month’s futures contract prices, may have caused the lower returns. UCO’s actual and expected returns could also be different due to daily price changes. In a cost-of-carry model, ETFs’ underperformance due to negative roll yields reflects storage costs. On January 4, US crude oil futures for delivery next year closed in ascending order, which could be a negative sign for these ETFs’ returns.

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