New ETF Targets Canadian Oil Sands

Prescott, AZ ( TheStreet) -- Reducing reliance on oil imports has become an increasingly important priority for both Democrats and Republicans and will no doubt come into focus as the 2012 election season heats up. This brings attention to the oil sands in Western Canada. As a note, many seem to treat oil from Canada as an exception to oil imports due to proximity and the relationship between the two countries.

This relationship paves the way for the new Sustainable North American Oil Sands ETF ( SNDS) to thrive. Investors have become increasingly aware of oil sands in the last five years or so, as oil has gone up in price. Extracting oil through this process is relatively expensive, but makes economic sense with higher oil prices. If oil stays high or continues higher in price, then pure-play oil sands stocks should do very well.

The new ETF provides exposure, but is not necessarily a pure play. SNDS currently has 31 holdings equally weighted that includes names most familiar for this theme, including Suncor ( SU), Canadian Oil Sands ( COSWF) and Imperial Oil ( IMO). SNDS' constituency also allows for the largest integrated oil companies who only derive a small portion of their revenue and earnings from the oil sands, like BP ( BP), Exxon Mobil ( XOM) and PetroChina ( PTR). Companies like these could probably be included in any thematic energy ETF like Bakken Shale or offshore Brazil.

The fund even takes in a couple of names that are not actual energy companies, like Jacobs Engineering ( JEC), which as the name implies, provides design services related to engineering, and Fluor Corporation ( FLR), which is in construction of various types of projects including oil and gas.

ETF research firm IndexUniverse is reporting that as of May 31, the underlying index had a yield of 3.15%. The yield is a compelling feature and comes from the liberal methodology of the fund's construction. This is attributable to some very high-yielding holdings, including Total ( TOT), which yields 6%, along with several pipeline stocks.

SNDS is far from a pure play. It is more of a global energy sector fund with a slightly heavier tilt to the oil sands theme. This makes the fund comparable to something like the iShares S&P Global Energy Sector Index Fund ( IXC). IXC offers exposure to more countries than SNDS, 10 to 7, and has a slightly lower expense ratio, 0.48% to 0.50%, but SNDS should have a better yield, and the large exposure to oil sands offers more of a growth component.

While SNDS does offer utility, investors looking to capture more of the upside promise of the oil sands would be better off with an individual stock from the group.

At the time of publication, SU and IXC were Nusbaum client positions.

This article is commentary by an independent contributor, separate from TheStreet's regular news coverage.

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