Oil ETFs Surge on Bets for Strengthening Fundamentals

Crude oil-related exchange traded funds jumped Friday as speculators positioned for stronger global demand and a potential production freeze from top exporters.

On Friday, the United States Oil Fund (NYSEArca: USO), which tracks West Texas Intermediate crude oil futures, gained 5.1% and the United States Brent Oil Fund (NYSEArca: BNO), which tracks Brent crude oil futures, rose 5.4%. Year-to-date, USO declined 13.6% and BNO dipped 1.2%.

Nymex WTI crude oil futures were up 6.6% to $39.7 per barrel on Friday while ICE Brent crude futures were up 6.1% to $41.8 per barrel.

Oil prices surged on speculation of improving demand and supply dynamics. On the demand side, traders regained optimism after Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen said the U.S. economy, the world’s largest oil consumer, is strengthening, reports Timothy Puko for the Wall Street Journal.

Federal Reserve Bank of New York President William Dudley also spoke Friday in favor of a slow approach to interest rate hikes, which may keep interest the U.S. dollar stable or even weaken it and a depreciating dollar would help support oil prices.

Moreover, we are heading into a seasonally strong period for oil. Brian LaRose, senior technical analyst at the brokerage ICAP PLC, pointed out that oil typically rallies early in the year as traders anticipate the annual spike in gasoline demand.