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Traders Are Flocking To Leveraged Energy ETFs

June 8, 2017 12:44 pm
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Amid slumping oil prices, the energy sector is the worst-performing group in the S&P 500 this year. One of this year's worst-performing commodities, oil has struggled to find upside even as OPEC and other major oil-producing nations have cut output.

Part of the reason for OPEC's new found inability to affect prices the way it once could is shale oil. The North American shale producers are not limiting output, which are keeping the market well-supplied and neutralizing OPEC's efforts in the process.

"The world's awash of it at the moment," said TD Ameritrade Chief Market Strategist JJ Kinahan. "It's not a drag on the overall market yet, but we saw this happen a few years ago where at some point it does become a drag."

With oil and energy equities scuffling, it is not surprising that active traders are embracing leveraged ETFs. What is perhaps surprising is that these traders are warming to downtrodden leveraged bullish energy funds.

Data suggest traders have recently been flocking to the Direxion Daily Energy Bull 3X Shares (NYSE:ERX), among other bullish leveraged ETFs. ERX seeks to deliver triple the daily returns of the Energy Select Sector Index, which is a widely followed cap-weighted collection of energy stocks.

Like any other leveraged ETF, ERX is best used on an intraday basis and that means an intraday bet on Dow components Exxon Mobil Corp. (NYSE:XOM) and Chevron Corp. (NYSE:CVX). The two largest U.S. oil companies combine for more than 38 percent of ERX's underlying index's weight. Other top holdings include Schlumberger Limited. (NYSE:SLB), ConocoPhillips (NYSE:COP), and EOG Resources Inc (NYSE:EOG). 

Over the past 30 days, traders have poured an average of $3.43 million per day into ERX, according to Direxion data. Yet over that stretch ERX has slumped more than 5 percent and over the past week, the ETF is lower by 6 percent.

Inflows to ERX come as traders have shown a reluctance to short energy stocks, a scenario that could be encouraging some active traders to consider more volatile leveraged energy ETFs.

For example, the Direxion Daily S&P Oil & Gas Exp. & Prod. Bull 3X Shares (NYSE:GUSH) has also recently been attracting fresh bets among short-term traders. Exploration and production stocks are historically more volatile than integrated names such as Exxon and Chevron, which explains why the S&P Oil & Gas Exploration & Production Select Industry Index is lagging the Energy Select Sector Index this year. GUSH attempts to deliver triple the daily returns of the S&P Oil & Gas Exploration & Production Select Industry Index.

Over the past month, inflows to GUSH have averaged $2.14 million per day, according to Direxion data.

“Leveraged and inverse ETFs pursue daily leveraged investment objectives which means they are riskier than alternatives which do not use leverage. They seek daily goals and should not be expected to track the underlying index over periods longer than one day,” said Direxion

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