The Energy Select Sector SPDR (NYSEArca: XLE) and the United States Oil Fund (NYSEArca: USO) are off 5.4% and 2.9%, respectively, over the past month, performances that are not likely to foster much confidence about the near-term outlook for the energy.
That is particularly true when considering season factors. Looking at energy sector seasonality, the end of May represents what is, historically, the sector’s best stretch while June is usually unkind to oil stocks. In fact, June is the worst month of the year for XLE. [Wrong Time for Energy ETFs]
Some oil market observers, though, argue that the energy sector could see further weakness as fundamentals remain unfavorable, with inventories reaching near their highest in over two decades. [Oil ETFs: Iraq, OPEC Maintaining Higher Exports]
So this is the scenario for energy ETFs: Supply is abundant, OPEC is not doing anything about that and plenty of market observers are calling for near-term declines for crude prices. Those factors could provide favorable setups for refiners.
There still is not a dedicated refiners ETF on the market, but that could change in the coming months. Van Eck’s Market Vectors unit has filed plans for the Market Vectors Oil Refiners ETF, which would track the Market Vectors Global Oil Refiners Index and trade under the ticker “CRAK.” Although no release date for CRAK has been announced, its ticker being known could be a sign that the fund’s launch is not far off.
Hopefully, that is the case because refiners often benefit from lower crude prices because those lower prices boost refining margins.
“We expect the Brent-WTI differential to fluctuate in the $4-$8 range, which coupled with improving logistics is a huge competitive advantage to US refiners with processing flexibility to take advantage of many crude sourcing options. Rising global tension boosts Brent price, while increased domestic oil production depresses WTI crude price. Lifting the export ban could increase WTI price and narrow the differential,” according to an Oppenheimer note posted by Barron’s.