Oil’s slide continues to claim a number of predictable victims throughout the exchange traded funds universe and ETFs with heavy exposure to exploration and productions have not been exceptions to that rule.
ETFs such as the Energy Select Sector SPDR (NYSEArca: XLE) and the Vanguard Energy ETF (NYSEArca: VDE) have been less bad than their E&P heavy counterparts because those funds feature large allocations to integrated oil companies. Integrated oil companies have significant refining operations and with oil prices, low refiners get the benefit of better margins. [This Energy ETF Could Surprise]
E&P heavy ETFs such as the SPDR S&P Oil & Gas Exploration & Production ETF (NYSEArca: XOP) do not have that benefit and the lack of refiners exposure partially explains the wide performance gaps between ETFs like XOP and more traditional energy funds such as XLE. In 2014, XOP plunged 29.4%, nearly three and a half times the loss incurred by XLE.
With oil futures residing at their lowest levels since April 2009, XOP has started 2015 the same way in which it ended 2014: In glum fashion. The ETF is off 10.4% to start the new year and traders are betting on more declines for some of the stocks held by the $1.1 billion XOP.
“According to data compiled by Sterne Agee, short interest in the basket of 20 exploration and production companies tracked by the firm increased 12% in aggregate during the back half of December, even as stock prices enjoyed a temporary gain. Of the 20 names tracked by Agee, the short positions totaled 272.9 million shares as of Dec. 31 compared to 243.6 million two weeks earlier,” reports Johanna Bennett for Barron’s.
Among the E&P companies that saw significant increases in short interest over that period include Chesapeake Energy (NYSE: CHK), Oasis Petroleum (NYSE: OAS), Pioneer Natural Resources (NYSE: PXD) and Whiting Petroleum (NYSE: WLL).