Eric Dutram: Thanks to more fuel efficient cars, a sluggish economy, and increased technological innovation, the U.S. is poised to become a force in the energy market once again. New fracking methods and a lack of demand in the domestic market has dramatically increased oil production over the past few years, and simultaneously pushed oil imports to their lowest level in decades.
In fact, the IEA recently projected that the U.S. would leapfrog both Russia and Saudi Arabia to become the world’s biggest producer of oil in just five years time. The international organization also said that the U.S. could become self-sufficient in energy by 2035 and a net exporter of natural gas by the end of the decade (read Three ETFs for the Unconventional Oil Revolution).
Clearly if these trends hold it could have an enormous impact on the American economy and once again allow global energy firms to focus on the U.S. market as opposed to dictator-run petro-powers from across the Middle East and increasingly in smaller markets across Asia and Latin America as well.
If this happens, it could continue a surge in investment interest in the North American oil market as oil companies from around the globe flock to a relatively safe place to drill, refine, and export oil from. Obviously this situation would be good news for many firms in the oil and gas industry, making a number of companies in this space interesting investments for the long term (although not necessarily in the short-term).
However, as we saw with the BP debacle, a look to a single energy firm can be extremely risky, suggesting a more diversified approach should probably be taken. Fortunately there are a dozens of energy ETFs out there giving investors plenty of choices in the space (see Inside The Forgotten Energy ETFs).
Below, we highlight three ETFs that we think could be particularly intriguing choices for a continued American oil boom. Any of these should benefit if America continues to expand its oil production levels and once again become a leader in energy development:
Market Vectors Oil Services ETF (NYSEARCA:OIH)
As more wells and drilling takes place across America, more oil services and equipment will be required. Thanks to this expansion in the home grown market, it seems likely that funds targeting this segment of the oil industry could be a beneficiary of the boom, with potentially a lower risk level as well.
Easily the most popular ETF in this segment is OIH, now from Market Vectors. The ETF has over $1.2 billion in assets and sees over four million shares in volume a day, suggesting low bid ask spreads which only had to the fund’s favorable cost level as expense are at 35 basis points a year (read Time to Buy Oil and Gas Services ETFs?).
However, investors should note that the product is pretty concentrated in Schlumberger (NYSE:SLB) with 20% of the assets, followed by NOV and HAL at another 17% combined. Still, the product has a heavy U.S. focus and a decent mid cap contingent, suggesting it should be driven by the events in the North American market.
PowerShares S&P Small Cap Energy Portfolio (NASDAQ:PSCE)
As more large caps hone in on the fracking and oil production trend at home, they will probably have to deal with small caps in at least a few segments. That is because many of these pint sized securities are 100% focused on the U.S. market and either have claims to key and untapped areas, or important patents, factors that are likely to make them top takeover targets as trend gets further underway.
Yet since we can never be sure of which will be targeted, investors should look to PSCE for diversified exposure to the space to play a ‘rising tide lifts all boats’ theory. The fund holds roughly 25 stocks in its basket, but it remains somewhat unpopular—despite low fees of 0.29% a year—so bid ask spreads could be relatively wide for this fund (see Crude Oil ETF Investing 101).
Still, the product offers up a nice mix between equipment and exploration/production firms with roughly a 50/50 split. Additionally, the fund is relatively well spread out as no one firm makes up more than 10% of assets, although four do account for more than 8% each.
Market Vectors Unconventional Oil & Gas ETF (NYSEARCA:FRAK)
At the heart of the American energy boom is fracking technology. This process, which injects fluids into rocks in order force oil and gas up to an extraction point, has been used more extensively and effectively over the past few years to boost yields at a number of oil and gas fields across the country.
While a number of companies use the technology on a regular basis, those in the aptly-named FRAK truly thrive on it. This fund consists of roughly 45 companies that are in the Market Vectors Unconventional Oil & Gas Index, a benchmark that looks to track the coalbed methane, coal seam gas, shale oil & gas, and sands market, charging 54 basis points a year in fees (see The Comprehensive Guide to Natural Gas ETFs).
Top components include large caps like Anadarko (NYSE:APC) and Occidental (NYSE:OXY) while EOG Resources (NYSE:EOG) is the third biggest component. Volume and AUM are still quite low for this large cap focused fund—suggesting modest bid ask spreads– but it is arguably one of the better ways to play booming American oil production in ETF form.
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