In terms of commodity futures ETPs, key products in the energy market tend to outpace all others both for volume and assets under management. While this could be due to a variety of reasons, the fact that commodity futures in crude oil and natural gas are widely used and traded certainly doesn’t hurt. Additionally, ETPs in this corner of the space tend to see less influence from unpredictable weather and thanks to the large levels of supplies, aren’t as volatile when there is a supply crunch or glut.
Despite these factors which have helped ETFs in the energy market like (UNG - ETF report) and (USO - ETF report) amass close to $2 billion combined, these trends have not spilled into the rest of the energy market as well. In fact, many investors have likely overlooked two important energy commodities in the ETP space; heating oil and gasoline. These commodities, as represented by (UHN - ETF report) and (UGA - ETF report), have under $100 million in AUM, suggesting that they have a fraction of the popularity that their counterparts in crude oil and natural gas experience (see Is USCI The Best Commodity ETF?)
These paltry levels of investment come despite gasoline and heating oil occupying spots at the top of the most widely traded commodity lists, meaning that many have forgotten about the space for their ETF trading. While investors may be overlooking the sector, they are probably doing so to their own determent, at least when looking at the previous 52 weeks of returns. Over this time period, an investment in UHN or UGA would have thoroughly crushed a similar purchase of UNG or USO. In fact, over the past year, UNG has plummeted by close to 56.6% while the rest of the group managed to gain for the time period. Yet of these three, there were also huge differences as USO gained just 2.4% while UHN added 9.0% and UGA soared by 18.8% (read Cocoa ETFs Surge On Supply Worries).
These differences come despite all four products using a similar methodology for their investment processes. All four track front month contracts for their respective commodities, rolling into the next month when the current contract is within two weeks of expiration. The only main difference comes from the expense ratios as USO charges the least at 0.65% while UGA and UHN have expenses of 0.8% and UNG charges the most at 85 basis points a year (read Does Your Portfolio Need A Coal ETF).
This should show investors that often times, the most popular investment in a category isn’t the best performing and that you must sometimes go off the beaten path in order to capture outsized returns. This was clearly the case in the energy market over the past 52 weeks as all the products experienced very different returns in the time period. Furthermore, the differences in the returns among these products was astounding, suggesting that while the products can exhibit high levels of correlation, there are periods in time when they can move somewhat independently of each other. Thanks to this, investors should look at all the products in the space and not just the billion (or near billion dollar) funds USO and UNG.
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