USO's Outflows Surged Amid Oil Price Retreat

USO's Outflows Surged Amid Oil Price Retreat

Investors are draining oil ETFs as they see historic performance in the market.

LucyBrewster310x310
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Finance Reporter
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Reviewed by: etf.com Staff
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Edited by: Ron Day

The largest pure-play oil-focused ETF lost 20% of its assets in outflows in a single day this week—showing investors less bullish on the commodity and looking to take profits.

The $1.3 billion United States Oil Fund (USO) lost $370 million in outflows on April 23, according to etf.com data. Through April 25, investors have drained a net $400 million from the oil fund so far this year while it's gained 20%, far outpacing the S&P 500’s 6% gain.

The outflows came as crude oil futures fell in the past week on weaker-than-expected U.S. economic growth and rising crude oil inventories. West Texas Intermediate U.S. crude oil fell below $83 on Wednesday, the same day as the outflows. Crude oil prices were previously at a six-month high earlier this month when they breached nearly $88.

Over the past year, oil has been one of the biggest gainers in the U.S. stock market, driven by geopolitical instability and supply constraints, according to analysts. Year to date, oil has gained about 15%, according to CNBC, outpacing the S&P 500. The commodity has risen as the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) cuts production and global instability persists in Ukraine and the Middle East.

Oil ETF Performance

Oil ETFs have been some of the year’s best-performing funds, according to etf.com data. Yet those same funds have been bleeding outflows as investors look to take profits. The $41 billion Energy Select SPDR (XLE), which tracks a market-cap-weighted index of energy firms, has climbed 16% this year so far, even as it has bled $221 million over the same time period.

Yet many are still bullish about the price of oil still having room to run. The U.S. Energy Information Administration said in mid-April they were raising their forecast for average oil prices from $87 a barrel to $89 per barrel this year.

Contact Lucy Brewster at [email protected].

Lucy Brewster is a finance reporter at etf.com covering asset managers, emerging technologies, and regulation. She hosts etf.com webinars and appears on Exchange Traded Fridays, etf.com’s flagship podcast. She previously was a finance fellow at Fortune Magazine where she covered markets, investment strategy, and venture capital. She has also been a freelancer writer at the publication Mergers & Acquisitions and a research fellow at the Historic Hudson Valley. 

She graduated from Vassar College in 2022 with a degree in History and was an editor of The Miscellany News, the college's award winning student run newspaper. 

Lucy lives in Brooklyn, NY, and in her free time she loves to run and find new recipes to cook.