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Oil ETF USO Announces 1:8 Reverse Split

Fund issuers throwing hail marys to try to save their products is becoming a common theme this week.

It's tough to keep track of the rapid-moving sector, but here's my best attempt.

  • UCO, the leveraged oil fund, announced a 1:25 reverse split in order to avoid running into regulatory trouble.
  • OIL, one of the largest oil ETNs, announced that it was closing at the end of the month in line with rules laid out in the prospectus dealing with severe losses.
  • USO, the largest oil ETF, announced it had run out of shares available for purchase after investors flooded the fund trying to buy the dip. It also made a structural change that allowed the fund to buy contracts with expirations further out into the future to help avoid running into the same issue it did recently loading up on May contracts.

Well, the United States Oil Fund (USO) is at it again today. It announced its own 1:8 reverse split in order to stay afloat. The split will be effective after the market close on April 28th with shares trading at their new price on April 29th.

With year-to-date losses of around 80%, USO is desperate to save the fund from turning into a total collapse, which I wrote about here yesterday.

While the move, in a vacuum, is nothing more than a cosmetic change that doesn't affect an investor's investment, in reality, it's a sign of trouble. Volatility means that the fund could have trouble achieving its exposure objective in a cost-effective manner. And that's on top of the significant losses that investors face by trying to play the oil futures market.

USO, along with other oil funds, are rife with risk right now and novice investors are probably getting an education on the risks involved in these products.

These funds are only appropriate for those highly risk-seeking investors comfortable with taking a total loss on their investment.

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