Thus far in 2018, the oil and gas industry has been booming. Rig counts in the US are up, prices at the pump are up, and the oil and gas ETFs tracking the sector are up by a lot.
Investors who have been following the industry over the past year could have made some serious money as a few of the leveraged ETFs are up 238% or more. The Velocity Shares 3X Long Crude Oil ETN (UWT) is up 247% over the last 12 months and is up more than 70% year-to-date. The UBS ETRACS ProShares Daily 3X Long Crude ETN (WTIU) has risen 240% over the last year and 64% year-to-date. Finally, the Proshares UltraPro 3X Crude Oil ETF (OILU) is up 238% over the last 12 months and 63% year-to-date.
But, perhaps your less risky and don’t like investing in the leveraged ETFs? Well, you still could have done well as the United States Brent Oil Fund LP (BNO) is up 71% over the last year and 19.9% since the start of 2018. Or perhaps you went with the ProShares K-1 Free Crude Oil Strategy ETF (OILK) which is up 62% in the past 12 months and 23% year-to-date. Or either the iPath Series B S&P GSCI Crude Oil ETN (OILB) or the United States Oil Fund LP (USO) which are both up more than 61% over the last year and 23% year-to-date.
There have been some reasons why the industry has been on a tear over the last, and many of that reason don’t show signs of changing in the short term. OPEC is committed to increasing the price of oil (despite its recent modest increase in production), smaller US outfits still need slightly higher prices before they can add additional rigs and become profitable, the economy appears to be healthy and growing, US consumers have not yet begun to fell the “pain at the pump” again really.
While recent data and projections from the U.S. Energy Information Administration don’t indicate massive price increases for oil and gas shortly, they are predicting increases. Speaking of the government, despite President Trumps promises, he has yet been able to change the shift we saw occur during the later Obama years when electric plants switched to natural gas from coal. This is something that really could change the oil and gas landscape in coming years if natural begin to climb naturally. Depending on which resource, oil or natural gas is more profitable, U.S. producers could flip-flop from one to another, causing the prices of both to climb. But, this would be something to watch for in a much longer time horizon than what we are discussing today.
Some investors may feel the run-in oil and gas has already taken place and that greener pastures should be explored, as opposed to trying to get on a moving train. But, if the economic reasons for the price increases haven’t changed, then prices should theoretically continue to climb until something else changes.
Furthermore, while OPEC and Russia both talk about higher output, the fact of the matter is both parties want the price of oil to either remain where it is or increase. Most of the countries in OPEC need Oil and Gas money in order to run their governments, while it is clear to most, that some high ranking Russian government officials have personal interests in the industry.
Furthermore, the argument could be made that both Russia and OPEC would rather see prices stay flat as opposed to climbing back to $100 a barrel because current prices keep some of the U.S. producers out of business and this gives Russia and OPEC more control on global production and price stability.
But, regardless of why Russia and OPEC may want to prices getting out of control, they still want to maintain current prices, giving oil and gas a reasonably stable price floor.
Buying different oil and gas ETFs, ETNs or other funds may not produce the huge returns we have seen in the past 12 or 7 months, but they could still bear fruit worth eating. The leveraged investments appear to be extremely risky at this time, even though I don’t see prices falling, but simply because of the daily costs associated with these funds. Buying a solid group of oil and gas ETFs made up of both the companies operating in the industry and the commodities themselves could pay healthy dividends in the coming year.
Disclosure: This contributor did not own any equity mentioned above at the time this blog post was published. This article is the opinion of the contributor themselves. The above is a matter of opinion provided for general information purposes only and is not intended as investment advice. This contributor is not receiving compensation (other than from INO.com) for their opinion.