Over the past few months, many have criticized large index funds of having a hand in manipulating and controlling crude oil prices. The largest oil ETF has been cited as an example, but the fund’s provider has spoken out against this notion.
The chart below, included in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), depicts the price of NYMEX front month light sweet crude oil contract to the actual size of United States Oil (USO)‘s crude oil futures contracts holdings.
To illustrate how the USO fund works and why it holds the number of futures contracts it does, the USO management team has filed in 8-K with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to provide the needed transparency. In fact, when analyzing the chart above, it seems that those that are saying that commodity index funds are the cause of the price volatility in crude are actually wrong. The USO fund was actually a SELLER of contracts in last year’s and this year’s run-up, and a BUYER when the prices were falling. This is contradicts what seems to be the common thinking.
- United States Oil Fund (USO): down 2.2% year-to-date
Meanwhile, creation of new shares for the natural gas exchange traded fund was put on hold last week, pending approval for more from the SEC. Matthew Hougan for Index Universe reports that the indicative NAV of the fund was $12.13/share, while the fund itself was trading at $12.35/share, placing it at a 1.81% premium to NAV. In early trading today, they were again trading at a premium.
The regulatory process for approval of the commodity funds created the premium at which the funds are trading. For UNG to create more shares, a fee is paid and then the paper chase begins for regulatory approval.