Other than a few Mexican state-owned offshore platforms, Hurricane Dean failed to knock out Gulf of Mexico oil drilling operations.

However, we are not out of the woods yet. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration confirmed earlier this month that it still places the chance of an above-normal 2007 Atlantic hurricane season at 85%.

So oil traders, with one eye on the most recent tropical disturbance, arrested the late-July/early August decline in the price of crude oil. Bullish petroleum inventory figures also contributed to the move.

The top performing fund this week, the

United States Oil Fund LP

(USO) - Get Report

, rose 5.41%, buying futures contracts to approximate the performance of the spot price of crude oil. That's a pretty good performance for this exchange-traded fund when you consider that the spot price of West Texas Intermediate crude oil added just 4.83% over the same period.

In second place, the


Tortoise North American Energy Corp. returned 3.99% over the five trading days.

The fund's portfolio of Canadian royalty and income trusts RITs and U.S. master limited partnerships, or MLPs, is allocated to 37.9% crude/refined product pipelines, 21.0% natural gas gathering and processing, 17.5% natural gas and liquefied natural gas pipelines, 8.0% oil and gas royalty trusts and 5.6% electric generation.

The largest holdings include:

Kinder Morgan Management


, at 8.84% of assets; Keyera Facilities Income Fund, at 8.35%;

Enbridge Energy Management


, at 7.80%; and Pembina Pipeline Income Fund, at 7.32%.

A closed-end fund, the


Kayne Anderson Energy Total Return Fund (KYE), tops our list of retreating funds this week, shedding 6.53%. This fund also invests in RITs and MLPs, with the largest holdings being Kinder Morgan Management, at 11.0% of total investments;

Plains All American Pipeline LP

(PAA) - Get Report

, at 6.8%;

Enterprise Products Partners LP

(EPD) - Get Report

, at 3.5%; and Enbridge Energy Management, at 2.6%.

Second from the bottom was the

Claymore MACROShares Oil Down


, which fell 4.86%, successfully tracking the inverse performance of the price of crude. This fund takes the opposite side of the market as the third


performer, the

Claymore MACROshares Oil Up Tradable Trust


, which lagged its benchmark with a return of just 3.34%.

Crude Oil Heads Back Toward $80 a Barrel

Click here for larger image.

Source: Bloomberg


here for an explanation of our ratings.

Looking forward, two of the largest drivers of oil prices over the next couple of years may be economic and geopolitical. If the subprime mortgage contagion spreads, it could become difficult for companies to borrow money to purchase new inventory, and that could trigger a wider slowdown in business activity. Demand for energy may shrink with the economic cycle.

On the other hand, the new French President Nicolas Sarkozy does not oppose sanctions against Iran as his predecessor, Jacques Chirac, did. With France joining the U.S. and British mission to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons, oil supplies may eventually get squeezed, sending prices higher. If President Bush preemptively lets slip the dogs of war again, this time by attacking Iranian nuclear enrichment sites, the sky's the limit on energy prices.

Kevin Baker became the senior financial analyst for TSC Ratings upon the August 2006 acquisition of Weiss Ratings by TheStreet.com, covering mutual funds. He joined the Weiss Group in 1997 as a banking and brokerage analyst. In 1999, he created the Weiss Group's first ratings to gauge the level of risk in U.S. equities. Baker received a B.S. degree in management from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and an M.B.A. with a finance specialization from Nova Southeastern University.