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USO > SEC Filings for USO > Form 10-Q on 12-Nov-2013All Recent SEC Filings

Show all filings for UNITED STATES OIL FUND, LP

Form 10-Q for UNITED STATES OIL FUND, LP


12-Nov-2013

Quarterly Report


Item 2. Management's Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations.

The following discussion should be read in conjunction with the condensed financial statements and the notes thereto of the United States Oil Fund, LP ("USOF") included elsewhere in this quarterly report on Form 10-Q.

Forward-Looking Information

This quarterly report on Form 10-Q, including this "Management's Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations," contains forward-looking statements regarding the plans and objectives of management for future operations. This information may involve known and unknown risks, uncertainties and other factors that may cause USOF's actual results, performance or achievements to be materially different from future results, performance or achievements expressed or implied by any forward-looking statements. Forward-looking statements, which involve assumptions and describe USOF's future plans, strategies and expectations, are generally identifiable by use of the words "may," "will," "should," "expect," "anticipate," "estimate," "believe," "intend" or "project," the negative of these words, other variations on these words or comparable terminology. These forward-looking statements are based on assumptions that may be incorrect, and USOF cannot assure investors that the projections included in these forward-looking statements will come to pass. USOF's actual results could differ materially from those expressed or implied by the forward-looking statements as a result of various factors.

USOF has based the forward-looking statements included in this quarterly report on Form 10-Q on information available to it on the date of this quarterly report on Form 10-Q, and USOF assumes no obligation to update any such forward-looking statements. Although USOF undertakes no obligation to revise or update any forward-looking statements, whether as a result of new information, future events or otherwise, investors are advised to consult any additional disclosures that USOF may make directly to them or through reports that USOF in the future files with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (the "SEC"), including annual reports on Form 10-K, quarterly reports on Form 10-Q and current reports on Form 8-K.

Introduction

USOF, a Delaware limited partnership, is a commodity pool that issues units that may be purchased and sold on the NYSE Arca, Inc. (the "NYSE Arca"). The investment objective of USOF is for the daily changes in percentage terms of its units' per unit net asset value ("NAV") to reflect the daily changes in percentage terms of the spot price of light, sweet crude oil delivered to Cushing, Oklahoma, as measured by the daily changes in the price of the futures contract for light, sweet crude oil traded on the New York Mercantile Exchange (the "NYMEX") that is the near month contract to expire, except when the near month contract is within two weeks of expiration, in which case it will be measured by the futures contract that is the next month contract to expire (the "Benchmark Oil Futures Contract"), less USOF's expenses. "Near month contract" means the next contract traded on the NYMEX due to expire. "Next month contract" means the first contract traded on the NYMEX due to expire after the near month contract. It is not the intent of USOF to be operated in a fashion such that the per unit NAV will equal, in dollar terms, the spot price of light, sweet crude oil or any particular futures contract based on light, sweet crude oil. It is not the intent of USOF to be operated in a fashion such that its per unit NAV will reflect the percentage change of the price of any particular futures contract as measured over a time period greater than one day. The general partner of USOF, United States Commodity Funds LLC ("USCF"), believes that it is not practical to manage the portfolio to achieve such an investment goal when investing in Oil Futures Contracts (as defined below) and Other Oil-Related Investments (as defined below).

USOF invests in futures contracts for light, sweet crude oil, other types of crude oil, heating oil, gasoline, natural gas and other petroleum-based fuels that are traded on the NYMEX, ICE Futures or other U.S. and foreign exchanges (collectively, "Oil Futures Contracts") and other oil interests such as cash-settled options on Oil Futures Contracts, forward contracts for oil, cleared swap contracts and over-the-counter transactions that are based on the price of crude oil, other petroleum-based fuels, Oil Futures Contracts and indices based on the foregoing (collectively, "Other Oil-Related Investments"). For convenience and unless otherwise specified, Oil Futures Contracts and Other Oil-Related Investments collectively are referred to as "Oil Interests" in this quarterly report on Form 10-Q.

USOF seeks to achieve its investment objective by investing in a combination of Oil Futures Contracts and Other Oil-Related Investments such that daily changes in its per unit NAV, measured in percentage terms, will closely track the daily changes in the price of the Benchmark Oil Futures Contract, also measured in percentage terms. USCF believes the daily changes in the price of the Benchmark Oil Futures Contract have historically exhibited a close correlation with the daily changes in the spot price of light, sweet crude oil. It is not the intent of USOF to be operated in a fashion such that the per unit NAV will equal, in dollar terms, the spot price of light, sweet crude oil or any particular futures contract based on light, sweet crude oil. It is not the intent of USOF to be operated in a fashion such that its per unit NAV will reflect the percentage change of the price of any particular futures contract as measured over a time period greater than one day. USCF believes that it is not practical to manage the portfolio to achieve such an investment goal when investing in Oil Futures Contracts and Other Oil-Related Investments.

Regulatory Disclosure

Impact of Accountability Levels, Position Limits and Price Fluctuation Limits. Futures contracts include typical and significant characteristics. Most significantly, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (the "CFTC") and the futures exchanges have established accountability levels and position limits on the maximum net long or net short futures contracts in commodity interests that any person or group of persons under common trading control (other than as a hedge, which an investment in USOF is not) may hold, own or control. The net position is the difference between an individual's or firm's open long contracts and open short contracts in any one commodity. In addition, most U.S.-based futures exchanges, such as the NYMEX, limit the daily price fluctuation for futures contracts. Currently, the ICE Futures imposes position and accountability limits that are similar to those imposed by U.S.-based futures exchanges and also limits the maximum daily price fluctuation, while some other non-U.S. futures exchanges have not adopted such limits.

The accountability levels for the Benchmark Oil Futures Contract and other Oil Futures Contracts traded on U.S.-based futures exchanges, such as the NYMEX, are not a fixed ceiling, but rather a threshold above which the NYMEX may exercise greater scrutiny and control over an investor's positions. The current accountability level for investments for any one month in the Benchmark Oil Futures Contract is 10,000 contracts. In addition, the NYMEX imposes an accountability level for all months of 20,000 net futures contracts for light, sweet crude oil. In addition, the ICE Futures maintains the same accountability levels, position limits and monitoring authority for its light, sweet crude oil contract as the NYMEX. If USOF and the Related Public Funds (as defined below) exceed these accountability levels for investments in the futures contracts for light, sweet crude oil, the NYMEX and ICE Futures will monitor such exposure and may ask for further information on their activities including the total size of all positions, investment and trading strategy, and the extent of liquidity resources of USOF and the Related Public Funds. If deemed necessary by the NYMEX and/or ICE Futures, USOF could be ordered to reduce its aggregate position back to the accountability level. As of September 30, 2013, USOF held 7,638 NYMEX Crude Oil Futures CL contracts and did not hold ICE WTI Crude Oil Futures Contracts. USOF exceeded accountability levels of the NYMEX during the nine months ended September 30, 2013, when it held a maximum of 10,958 Crude Oil Futures CL contracts, exceeding the "any" month limit. No action was taken by the NYMEX and USOF did not reduce the number of Futures Contracts held as a result. USOF did not exceed any accountability levels imposed by ICE Futures for the nine months ended September 30, 2013.

Position limits differ from accountability levels in that they represent fixed limits on the maximum number of futures contracts that any person may hold and cannot allow such limits to be exceeded without express CFTC authority to do so. In addition to accountability levels and position limits that may apply at any time, the NYMEX and ICE Futures impose position limits on contracts held in the last few days of trading in the near month contract to expire. It is unlikely that USOF will run up against such position limits because USOF's investment strategy is to close out its positions and "roll" from the near month contract to expire to the next month contract during a four-day period beginning two weeks from expiration of the contract. For the nine months ended September 30, 2013, USOF did not exceed any position limits imposed by the NYMEX and ICE Futures.

The regulation of commodity interest trading in the United States and other countries is an evolving area of the law, as exemplified by the various discussions of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (the "Dodd-Frank Act"). The various statements made in this summary are subject to modification by legislative action and changes in the rules and regulations of the CFTC, the National Futures Association (the "NFA"), the futures exchanges, clearing organizations and other regulatory bodies. Pending final resolution of all applicable regulatory requirements, some specific examples of how the new Dodd-Frank Act provisions and rules adopted thereunder could impact USOF are discussed below.

Futures Contracts and Position Limits

The CFTC is prohibited by statute from regulating trading on non-U.S. futures exchanges and markets. The CFTC, however, has adopted regulations relating to the marketing of non-U.S. futures contracts in the United States. These regulations permit certain contracts on non-U.S. exchanges to be offered and sold in the United States.

In October 2011, the CFTC adopted rules that impose new position limits on Referenced Contracts (as defined below) involving 28 energy, metals and agricultural commodities (the "Position Limit Rules"). The Position Limit Rules were scheduled to become effective on October 12, 2012. However, on September 28, 2012, the United States District Court for the District of Columbia vacated these regulations on the basis of ambiguities in the provisions of the Commodity Exchange Act ("CEA") (as modified by the Dodd-Frank Act) upon which the regulations were based. In its September 28, 2012 decision, the court remanded the Position Limit Rules to the CFTC with instructions to use its expertise and experience to resolve the ambiguities in the statute. On November 15, 2012, the CFTC indicated that it will move forward with an appeal of the District Court's decision to vacate the Position Limit Rules. At this time, it is not possible to predict how the CFTC's appeal could affect USOF, but it may be substantial and adverse. Furthermore, until such time as the appeal is resolved or, if applicable revisions to the Position Limit Rules are proposed and adopted, the regulatory architecture in effect prior to the enactment of the Position Limit Rules will govern transactions in commodities and related derivatives (collectively, "Referenced Contracts"). Under that system, the CFTC enforces federal limits on speculation in agricultural products (e.g., corn, wheat and soy), while futures exchanges enforce position limits and accountability levels for agricultural and certain energy products (e.g., oil and natural gas). As a result, USOF may be limited with respect to the size of its investments in any commodities subject to these limits. Finally, subject to certain narrow exceptions, the vacated Position Limit Rules would have required the aggregation, for purposes of the position limits, of all positions in the 28 Referenced Contracts held by a single entity and its affiliates, regardless of whether such position existed on U.S. futures exchanges, non-U.S. futures exchanges, in cleared swaps or in over-the-counter swaps. The CFTC is presently considering new aggregation rules, under a rulemaking proposal that is distinct from the Position Limit Rules. At this time, it is unclear how any modified aggregation rules may affect USOF, but it may be substantial and adverse. By way of example, the aggregation rules in combination with any potential revised Position Limit Rules may negatively impact the ability of USOF to meet its investment objectives through limits that may inhibit USCF's ability to sell additional Creation Baskets of USOF.

Based on its current understanding of the final position limit regulations, USCF does not anticipate significant negative impact on the ability of USOF to achieve its investment objective.

"Swap" Transactions

The Dodd-Frank Act imposes new regulatory requirements on certain "swap" transactions that USOF is authorized to engage in that may ultimately impact the ability of USOF to meet its investment objective. On August 13, 2012, the CFTC and the SEC published joint final rules defining the terms "swap" and "security-based swap." The term "swap" is broadly defined to include various types of over-the-counter derivatives, including swaps and options. The effective date of these final rules was October 12, 2012.

The Dodd-Frank Act requires that certain transactions ultimately falling within the definition of "swap" be executed on organized exchanges or "swap execution facilities" and cleared through regulated clearing organizations (which are referred to in the Dodd-Frank Act as "derivative clearing organizations" ("DCOs")), if the CFTC mandates the central clearing of a particular contract. On November 28, 2012, the CFTC issued its final clearing determination requiring that certain credit default swaps and interest rate swaps be cleared by registered DCOs. This is the CFTC's first clearing determination under the Dodd-Frank Act and became effective on February 11, 2013. Beginning on March 11, 2013, "swap dealers," "major swap participants" and certain active funds were required to clear certain credit default swaps and interest rate swaps; and beginning on June 10, 2013, commodity pools, certain private funds and entities predominantly engaged in financial activities were required to clear the same types of swaps. As a result, if USOF enters into or has entered into certain interest rate and credit default swaps on or after June 10, 2013, such swaps will be required to be centrally cleared. Determination on other types of swaps are expected in the future, and, when finalized, could require USOF to centrally clear certain over-the-counter instruments presently entered into and settled on a bi-lateral basis. If a swap is required to be cleared, the initial margin will be set by the clearing organization, subject to certain regulatory requirements and guidelines. Initial and variation margin requirements for swap dealers and major swap participants who enter into uncleared swaps and capital requirements for swap dealers and major swap participants who enter into both cleared and uncleared trades will be set by the CFTC, the SEC or the applicable "Prudential Regulator."

The Dodd-Frank Act also requires that certain swaps determined to be available to trade on a swap execution facility ("SEF") must be executed over such a facility. On June 5, 2013, the CFTC published a final rule regarding the obligations of SEFs, including the obligation for facilities offering multiple person execution services to register as a SEF by October 2, 2013. On September 27 and 30, 2013, the CFTC's Division of Market Oversight granted no-action relief to SEFs from compliance with certain regulatory and reporting requirements. The no-action relief granted on September 27, 2013 included relief, in effect until November 1, 2013, from a requirement that a SEF enforce its own rulebooks and compel its participants to consent to the jurisdiction of the SEF. Based upon applications filed by several SEFs with the CFTC in the second half of October 2013, it is expected that the CFTC will determine that certain interest rate swaps will be determined to be available to trade on those SEFs in the first quarter of 2014.

On April 11, 2013, the CFTC published a final rule to exempt swaps between certain affiliated entities within a corporate group from the clearing requirement. The rule permits affiliated counterparties to elect not to clear a swap subject to the clearing requirement if, among other things, the counterparties are majority-owned affiliates whose financial statements are included in the same consolidated financial statements and whose swaps are documented and subject to a centralized risk management program. However, the exemption does not apply to swaps entered into by affiliated counterparties with unaffiliated counterparties.

On November 14, 2012, the CFTC proposed new regulations that would require enhanced customer protections, risk management programs, internal monitoring and controls, capital and liquidity standards, customer disclosures and auditing and examination programs for FCMs. The proposed rules are intended to afford greater assurances to market participants that customer segregated funds and secured amounts are protected, customers are provided with appropriate notice of the risks of futures trading and of the FCMs with which they may choose to do business, FCMs are monitoring and managing risks in a robust manner, the capital and liquidity of FCMs are strengthened to safeguard their continued operations and the auditing and examination programs of the CFTC and the self-regulatory organizations are monitoring the activities of FCMs in a thorough manner. The final regulations have not yet been adopted.

Additionally, the CFTC published rules on February 17, 2012 and April 3, 2012 that require "swap dealers" and "major swap participants" to: 1) adhere to business conduct standards, 2) implement policies and procedures to ensure compliance with the CEA and 3) maintain records of such compliance. These new requirements may impact the documentation requirements for both cleared and non-cleared swaps and cause swap dealers and major swap participants to face increased compliance costs that, in turn, may be passed along to counterparties (such as USOF) in the form of higher fees and expenses that related to trading swaps.

On April 5, 2013, the CFTC's Division of Clearing and Risk issued a letter granting no-action relief from certain swap data reporting requirements for swaps entered into between affiliated counterparties. In general, the letter grants relief from, among others: real-time, historical and regular swap reporting (under Part 43, Part 45 and Part 46 of the CFTC's regulations, respectively.

On April 9, 2013, the CFTC's Division of Market Oversight issued a letter granting time-limited no-action relief to non-swap dealer, non-major swap participant counterparties from the real-time, regular and historical swap reporting requirements (under Part 43, Part 45 and Part 46 of the CFTC's regulations, respectively). The regular reporting requirements (Part 45 of the CFTC regulations) for interest rate and credit swaps of a financial entity (including a commodity pool such as USOF) began on April 10, 2013. The letter delays implementation of the reporting requirements based upon the asset class underlying the swap and the classification of the reporting counterparty. For a financial entity (including a commodity pool such as USOF), regular reporting requirements for equity, foreign exchange and other commodity swaps (including swaps on oil) began on May 29, 2013 and reporting of all historical swaps for all asset classes begins on September 30, 2013.

In addition to the rules and regulations imposed under the Dodd-Frank Act, swap dealers that are European banks may also be subject to European Market Infrastructure Regulation ("EMIR"). These regulations have not yet been fully implemented.

General Regulation Applicable to USOF

On August 12, 2013, the CFTC issued final rules establishing compliance obligations for commodity pool operators ("CPOs") of investment companies registered under the Investment Company Act of 1940 (the "Investment Company Act") that are required to register due to recent changes to CFTC Regulation
4.5. The final rules were issued in a CFTC release entitled "Harmonization of Compliance Obligations for Registered Investment Companies Required to Register as Commodity Pool Operators." For entities that are registered with both the CFTC and the SEC, the CFTC will accept the SEC's disclosure, reporting and recordkeeping regime as substituted compliance for substantially all of Part 4 of the CFTC's regulations, so long as they comply with comparable requirements under the SEC's statutory and regulatory compliance regime. Thus, the final rules (the "Harmonization Rules") allow dually registered entities to meet certain CFTC regulatory requirements for CPOs by complying with SEC rules to which they are already subject. Although USOF is not a registered investment company under the Investment Company Act, the Harmonization Rules amended certain CFTC disclosure rules to make the requirements for all CPOs to periodically update their disclosure documents consistent with those of the SEC. This change will decrease the burden to USOF and USCF of having to comply with inconsistent regulatory requirements. It is not known whether the CFTC will make additional amendments to its disclosure, reporting and recordkeeping rules to further harmonize these obligations with those of the SEC as they apply to USOF and USCF, but any such further rule changes could result in additional operating efficiencies for USOF and USCF.

With regard to any other rules that the CFTC may adopt in the future, the effect of any such regulatory changes on USOF is impossible to predict, but it could be substantial and adverse.

USCF, which is registered as a CPO and a swaps firm with the CFTC, is authorized by the Sixth Amended and Restated Agreement of Limited Partnership of USOF (the "LP Agreement") to manage USOF. USCF is authorized by USOF in its sole judgment to employ and establish the terms of employment for, and termination of, commodity trading advisors or FCMs.

Price Movements

Crude oil futures prices were volatile during the nine months ended September 30, 2013 and exhibited moderate daily swings along with an uneven upward trend during the period. The price of the Benchmark Oil Futures Contract started the period at $91.82 per barrel. The low of the period was on July 1, 2013 when the price dropped to $97.99 per barrel. The high of the period was on September 6, 2013 when the price reached $110.53 per barrel. The period ended with the Benchmark Oil Futures Contract at $102.33 per barrel, up approximately 11.45% over the period. USOF's per unit NAV began the period at $33.42 and ended the period at $36.86 on September 30, 2013, an increase of approximately 10.29% over the period. USOF's per unit NAV reached its high for the period on September 6, 2013 at $39.48 and reached its low for the period on April 17, 2013 at $31.00. The Benchmark Oil Futures Contract prices listed above began with the February 2013 contracts and ended with the November 2013 contracts. The increase of approximately 11.45% on the Benchmark Oil Futures Contract listed above is a hypothetical return only and could not actually be achieved by an investor holding Oil Futures Contracts. An investment in Oil Futures Contracts would need to be rolled forward during the time period described in order to simulate such a result. Furthermore, the change in the nominal price of these differing crude Oil Futures Contracts, measured from the start of the period to the end of the period, does not represent the actual benchmark results that USOF seeks to track, which are more fully described below in the section titled "Tracking USOF's Benchmark."

During the nine months ended September 30, 2013, crude oil moved into a mild state of backwardation, meaning that the price of the near month crude Oil Futures Contract was greater than the price of the next month crude Oil Futures Contract, or contracts further away from expiration. Crude oil inventories, which reached historic levels in January 2009 and February 2009 and which appeared to be the primary cause of the steep level of contango, began to drop in March 2009 and continued to drop for the remainder of 2009 and the beginning of 2010. During the year ended December 31, 2011, crude oil inventories began to climb higher, which contributed to the crude oil futures market remaining in contango through the end of December 2011. During the nine months ended September 30, 2012, crude oil inventories began to draw down from present levels, which contributed to the crude oil futures market moving into backwardation through the end of September 2013. For a discussion of the impact of backwardation and contango on total returns, see "Term Structure of Crude Oil Prices and the Impact on Total Returns" below.

Valuation of Oil Futures Contracts and the Computation of the Per Unit NAV

The per unit NAV of USOF's units is calculated once each NYSE Arca trading day. The per unit NAV for a particular trading day is released after 4:00 p.m. New York time. Trading during the core trading session on the NYSE Arca typically closes at 4:00 p.m. New York time. USOF's administrator uses the NYMEX closing price (determined at the earlier of the close of the NYMEX or 2:30 p.m. New York time) for the contracts held on the NYMEX, but calculates or determines the value of all other USOF investments, including ICE Futures contracts or other futures contracts, as of the earlier of the close of the NYSE Arca or 4:00 p.m. New York time.

Results of Operations and the Crude Oil Market

Results of Operations. On April 10, 2006, USOF listed its units on the American Stock Exchange (the "AMEX") under the ticker symbol "USO." On that day, USOF established its initial offering price at $67.39 per unit and issued 200,000 units to the initial authorized purchaser in exchange for $13,479,000 in cash. As a result of the acquisition of the AMEX by NYSE Euronext, USOF's units no longer trade on the AMEX and commenced trading on the NYSE Arca on November 25, 2008.

Since its initial offering of 17,000,000 units, USOF has registered seven subsequent offerings of its units: 30,000,000 units which were registered with the SEC on October 18, 2006, 50,000,000 units which were registered with the SEC on January 30, 2007, 30,000,000 units which were registered with the SEC on December 4, 2007, 100,000,000 units which were registered with the SEC on February 7, 2008, 100,000,000 units which were registered with the SEC on September 29, 2008, 300,000,000 units which were registered with the SEC on January 16, 2009 and 1,000,000,000 units which were registered with the SEC on June 29, 2009. Units offered by USOF in the subsequent offerings were sold by it for cash at the units' per unit NAV as described in the applicable prospectus. As of September 30, 2013, USOF had issued 878,700,000 units, 21,200,000 of which were outstanding. As of September 30, 2013, there were 748,300,000 units registered but not yet issued.

More units may have been issued by USOF than are outstanding due to the redemption of units. Unlike funds that are registered under the Investment Company Act of 1940, as amended, units that have been redeemed by USOF cannot be resold by USOF. As a result, USOF contemplates that additional offerings of its . . .

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