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), 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 ( TYN) 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 ( KMR), at 8.84% of assets; Keyera Facilities Income Fund, at 8.35%; Enbridge Energy Management ( EEQ), at 7.80%; and Pembina Pipeline Income Fund, at 7.32%.

A closed-end fund, the ( KYE) 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), at 6.8%; Enterprise Products Partners LP ( EPD), at 3.5%; and Enbridge Energy Management, at 2.6%.

Second from the bottom was the Claymore MACROShares Oil Down ( DCR), 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 best performer, the Claymore MACROshares Oil Up Tradable Trust ( UCR), 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

Best Performing Energy Funds
Total return for the week ended Aug. 30.
Fund Ticker Rating Fund Type 1 Week Total Return
United States Oil Fund LP USO E ETF 5.41%
Tortoise North American Energy Corp TYN B+ Closed-End 3.99%
Claymore MACROshares Oil Up Tradable Trust UCR U ETF 3.34%
Ultra Oil & Gas ProShares DIG U ETF 3.10%
Profunds Oil Equip Dist & Services UltraSector ProFund OEPIX U Open-End 2.85%
Fidelity Select Energy Service Portfolio FSESX C+ Open-End 2.79%
ProFunds Oil & Gas UltraSector ProFund ENPIX C Open-End 2.40%
Rydex S&P Equal Weight Energy ETF RYE U ETF 2.30%
First Trust Energy AlphaDEX Fund FXN U ETF 2.30%
PowerShares Dynamic Oil & Gas Services Portfolio PXJ B ETF 2.23%
Source: Bloomberg

Read here for an explanation of our ratings.

10 Worst Performing Energy Funds
Total return for the week ended Aug. 30.
Fund Ticker Rating Fund Type 1 Week Total Return
Kayne Anderson Energy Total Return Fund KYE B Closed-End -6.53%
Claymore MACROshares Oil Down Tradeable Trust DCR U ETF -4.86%
United States Natural Gas Fund LP UNG U ETF -4.25%
UltraShort Oil & Gas ProShares DUG U ETF -3.73%
Kayne Anderson MLP Investment Co KYN B Closed-End -2.96%
Market Vectors Nuclear Energy ETF NLR U ETF -2.24%
Kayne Anderson Energy Development Co KED U Closed-End -2.01%
ProFunds Short Oil & Gas ProFund SNPIX U Open-End -1.73%
First Trust ISE-Revere Natural Gas Index Fund FCG U ETF -1.29%
BlackRock Global Resources Fund SSGRX C- Open-End -1.28%
Source: Bloomberg

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.

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