The worst-performing ETFs all have one big thing in common

  • Crude oil is the common string between the six worst-performing large non-leveraged U.S.-listed ETFs.
  • The worst-performing of these funds year to date is the VanEck Vectors Oil Services ETF.
  • Crude oil prices have fallen more than 8 percent this year.

Out of all the large non-leveraged U.S.-listed exchange-traded funds, the six worst-performing are all closely tied to oil prices.

This may come as no surprise, as crude oil has declined more than 8 percent so far this year. But some strategists see further downside for the commodity, which could take these funds lower still.

The worst-performing large non-leveraged exchange-traded fund, the VanEck Vectors Oil Services ETF (OIH), has fallen nearly 18 percent so far this year. Behind that is the S&P Oil & Gas Exploration & Production ETF (XOP), which has declined over 15 percent year to date. The sixth-worst performer is the popular XLE fund, which has fallen 10 percent year to date and is composed largely of energy giants Exxon, Chevron and Shlumberger.

The energy sector will likely continue its underperformance relative to the S&P 500, said Ari Wald, Oppenheimer head of technical analysis.

The sector on an absolute basis appears to be in the process of bottoming out, he said, "but we're going to see this very choppy trading maybe over the coming months, the coming quarter, even the coming years. And I think in the process, the energy sector is going to underperform versus a rising S&P 500, and that equities as a whole will do better than the energy sector."

Examining a chart of the sector relative to the broader market, the trend has recently fallen below year-long support, and its underperformance may accelerate.

Shale producers coming online in the U.S. and rising rig counts give Gina Sanchez, Chantico Global CEO, pause about oil prices and equities to which they are closely tethered.

"We're going into the driving season, and so generally, supply usually tends to go down in May, June, July and August. However, the problem is the OPEC nations tend not to stick to their deals," she said.

Even as oil has caught a bid this week as Russia and Saudi Arabia reached an agreement to extend output cuts through next March, Sanchez said the cuts are not as solid as the oil bulls would hope.

"If you look at it, Saudi Arabia is over 100 percent of the compliance, and everybody else is kind of cheating a little," she said. "And that's the story with OPEC — supplies just aren't coming down."

The bigger problem for oil is in the United States, however, where oil production has boomed. U.S. shale production is set to rise for the sixth straight month in June, sending production to its highest level since May 2015, according to a recent Energy Information Administration report.


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Michael Santoli

Michael Santoli joined CNBC in October 2015 as a Senior Markets Commentator, based at the network's Global Headquarters in Englewood Cliffs, N.J.  Santoli brings his extensive markets expertise to CNBC's Business Day programming, with a regular appearance on CNBC's Closing Bell (M-F, 3PM-5PM ET). In addition, he contributes to CNBC and CNBC PRO, writing regular articles and creating original digital videos.

Previously, Santoli was a Senior Columnist at Yahoo Finance, where he wrote analysis and commentary on the stock market, corporate news and the economy. He also appeared on Yahoo Finance video programs, where he offered insights on the most important business stories of the day, and was a regular contributor to CNBC and other networks.

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