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TheStreet Open House

Slick Picks for Oil Stock ETFs

Editor's note: Don Dion is a money manager and publisher of the Fidelity Independent Adviser family of newsletters, which provides his commentary on the financial markets, with a specific emphasis on mutual funds and exchange-traded funds.

There are many oil stock ETFs that offer investors different ways to play the oil industry, but after accounting for fees, volume and assets under management as well as comparing the portfolios, the options can be whittled down to a few best choices. Most of these ETFs are heavily tied to the oil industry and there may be significant exposure to natural gas, but I've left off energy funds that have significant exposure to coal or alternative energy.

First up are the broad energy ETF, consisting of three large funds with more than half a billion in assets and two smaller funds. The larger funds have very similar weightings, with about 60% of the portfolio concentrated in the top 10, and Exxon Mobil (XOM) and Chevron (CVX) are the largest holdings by far. The three have very similar performance and therefore, the best choice is to stick with the largest and cheapest option -- SPDR Energy (XLE).

The two smaller funds offer two different strategies. PowerShares Dynamic Energy (PXI) uses the Intellidex Index. According to PowerShares, "The Index thoroughly evaluates companies based on a variety of investment merit criteria, including fundamental growth, stock valuation, investments and risk factors. Securities shown to possess the greatest capital appreciation potential are selected by the Index."

Rydex S&P Equal Weight Energy (RYE) is the other fund, which equally weights the holdings. Last fall both of these strategies underperformed the market. Since early April, when oil prices started a determined rise, they have outperformed but still lag over one- and two-year time periods. With only a small amount of assets and higher fees, the larger funds make better options.

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