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Thursday, March 10, 2011

Beware USO For Long-term Holdings

One of the popular oil plays is the ETF USO, which is the U.S. Oil Fund. Basically, it is meant to track the price of oil itself, rather than derivative stock plays. Sounds good, right? Well, the problem is, like with many ETFs that track commodities, it doesn't really get the job done the way you think it might. 

So, oil is approximately 2/3s as high as it was at the peak in 2008. USO is at, oh, about 1/3 of the price. Due to the vagaries of how ETFs are often priced, these things don't track how they should over the long-term. You will see, however, that the long-term tracking issues have not dissuaded investors from piling into USO recently as seen by the volume spike. If you feel compelled to speculate on Middle East stability, this is fine in the short run, but bail as soon as you hit a target price, if you are so lucky. 

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