Sunday, February 27, 2011

USO vs Oil

We all know that the commodity ETFs tend to vastly underperform the commodities they are supposed to mimic. Wall Street games them as they roll contracts, the fund managers take their fees and not much is left for the ETF investor. UNG is famously the worst of all in this regard but USO is pretty horrid as well. Take a look at US ovewr the past three years:

When an ETF consistently performs so poorly compared with the commodity (see light crude chart below) one wonders why any one bothers to invest in it at all. There were over 150 million shares traded last week. Sure, there are probably tons of shorts in USO who hedge with crude futures but not everyone can be short. The shorts have to borrow from somewhere. This all begs the question, why do these "investment" instruments exist and who would want to own them? Is it all just short term investors who only care about the day to day performance and don't care about weekly under-performance as is clearly evident in these charts?

Disclosure: No position in these.