Oil Rising, but Traders Skirt Leveraged ETFs

Even prior to this week’s violence in Iraq, the excuse du jour for soaring oil prices, energy stocks and equity-based exchange traded funds were in rally mode.

Year-to-date, the Energy Select Sector SPDR (NYSEArca: XLE) trails only the Utilities Select Sector SPDR (NYSEAra: XLU) among the nine sector SPDR ETFs. In the current quarter, XLE is the best performer of those nine ETFs and the race is not even close. [Remember Global Energy ETFs]

Energy sector ebullience has been widespread. At this writing Friday, just 17 ETFs have hit new 52-week highs, seven of which are energy funds. That is similar to what was seen on Thursday when about half of the 46 ETFs to hit new 52-week highs were energy plays. [More Upside for Energy ETFs]

Even with easily identifiable catalysts for and overt bullishness displayed by the energy sector, traders are not rushing into the leveraged ETFs that track the sector.

For example, the Direxion Daily Energy Bull 3X Shares (NYSEArca: ERX) has suffered nearly $16 million in outflows this quarter despite surging nearly 29% since April 1. ERX attempts to deliver three times the daily performance of the S&P Energy Select Sector Index, XLE’s underlying index. With a second-quarter gain of almost 29%, ERX has delivered more than triple the 9.2% gained by XLE this quarter.

The doubled-leveraged ProShares Ultra Oil & Gas Proshares (NYSEArca; DIG) has seen second-quarter inflows of $5.9 million. That is better than nothing, but it can be argued that at a 17.5% second-quarter gain merits more inflows than that. [Right Leveraged ETFs for This Moment]