ETF Alternatives for Tapping Into Rising Oil Prices

by: Tom Lydon

Oil prices are inching higher and for exchange traded fund investors there are several ways to play the future of oil. ETFs can provide exposure to oil through futures contracts or through companies that deal directly with oil. Add one more way to get exposure to that list.

Many countries that are rich in oil have state-owned oil companies, and the logic goes that if oil does well, then the economy of the oil rich country will benefit, remarks Johnathan Bernstein for ETFZone. [ETFs to Hedge Rising Oil and Gas Prices – If It Happens.]

Countries that have the largest proven oil reserves include Saudi Arabia, Canada, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Venezuela, Russia, Libya and Nigeria, in that order. Only Canada and Russia have their own country-specific ETF and some regional ETFs provide exposure to Kuwait, the UAE, and Nigeria. Libya, Iraq, and Iran, are currently unavailable to U.S. retail investors.

In analyzing the iShares MSCI Canada (NYSEARCA:EWC) against other oil-related ETFs, Bernstein found EWC outperformed, but it wasn’t strictly because of oil’s increasing price. Less than 25% of the fund’s holdings are in the energy sector, a third of the allocations make up financial assets and about 20% is in the industrial materials sector. The sharp re-valuation of financial assets has helped boost EWC above oil-related ETFs. Additionally, oil and raw material prices has helped strengthen the Canadian dollar – fund assets are denominated in Canadian dollars, which means higher U.S. dollar returns. [Canadian Dollar ETF: Why It's Strong.]

Market Vectors Gulf States ETF (NYSEARCA:MES) also performed better than oil-related ETFs, but started lagging when the Dubai World debt crisis hit. The financial sector makes up more than 60% of the fund. UAE makes up 20% of the fund, Kuwait is 60% and Qatar is 15%. [Africa ETFs: 5 Plays for a Growing Economy.]

With a 40% exposure to energy, the Russia Market Vectors Russia ETF (NYSEARCA:RSX) has reflected Russia’s dependence on oil and other raw materials. [Russia ETFs: Ready to Power Up?]

The same can be said for African countries like Libya and Nigeria, which are represented in the Market Vectors Africa (NYSEARCA:AFK). Nigeria makes up 20% of the fund, South Africa is 30%, Morocco and Egypt together is 30%. AFK only has around 10% direct exposure to energy companies.

Other ETFs that include oil-rich countries include:

  • WisdomTree Middle East Dividend (NASDAQ:GULF)

  • PowerShares MENA Frontier Countries (NASDAQ:PMNA)

For more information on oil, visit our oil category.

Max Chen contributed to this article.