5 min read
By Ron Koren, ETF Insider


The financial world is replete with acronyms, each representing its unique share of value and opportunity. Among these, VDE and XLE have frequently come up in discussions, particularly in the context of energy-focused exchange-traded funds (ETFs). While both have carved out a niche for themselves in the energy sector, their approaches, holdings, and strategies differ. This article delves deep into the nuances between the VDE and XLE, providing insights to investors keen on energy exposure.

VDE VS XLE: Sectors and Top Holdings

Both VDE and XLE are designed to give investors access to the energy sector. However, they differentiate themselves in their holdings and sector coverage.
VDE – The Vanguard Energy ETF, commonly referred to as VDE, provides broad exposure to the energy sector. It holds assets in a mix of integrated oil and gas, exploration, refining, and oilfield services companies. Its top holdings often include industry behemoths like Exxon Mobil, Chevron, and ConocoPhillips.
XLE – The Energy Select Sector SPDR Fund, or XLE, adopts a more concentrated approach. While also focusing on oil and gas companies, it has a limited number of holdings when compared to VDE. Nevertheless, its major holdings also comprise Exxon Mobil and Chevron, reflecting their importance in the energy domain.

VDE overlap VDE VS XLEVDE overlap VDE VS XLE

VDE VS XLE: Capitalization strategy

Capitalization plays a pivotal role in determining the stability and potential returns of an ETF. While both VDE and XLE center around the energy sector, their capitalization strategies diverge:
VDE – Vanguard's approach with VDE is largely cap-weighted. This means that the stocks with the largest market capitalizations, such as Exxon Mobil and Chevron, command more substantial portions of the fund. This strategy offers investors a more balanced exposure, cushioning them from the volatilities of smaller companies.
XLE – XLE's strategy, while also leaning towards cap-weighting, tends to be more concentrated. The fund might hold fewer stocks, but its focus on large-cap stocks means that its performance is closely tethered to that of its top holdings.

VDE VS XLE: Tracking and Exposure

Both VDE and XLE track indices that offer exposure to the energy sector. However, the specifics of their tracking and exposure elements are crucial for potential investors:
VDE – The VDE tracks the MSCI US Investable Market Energy 25/50 Index. This index encompasses a broad spectrum of energy-related stocks, granting investors exposure to nearly the entire US energy market. This all-encompassing approach can be seen as more diversified, potentially offering a more stable return pattern.
XLE – On the other hand, XLE tracks the Energy Select Sector Index. This index is more selective, incorporating only those companies included in the S&P 500. As such, XLE's exposure is more refined, making it more susceptible to the performance of the S&P 500's energy sector.


VDE and XLE, both formidable players in the energy ETF space, cater to different investor needs. For those looking for broad, comprehensive exposure to the US energy market, VDE is a suitable choice. Meanwhile, XLE serves investors desiring a more refined focus on larger, more established energy players, especially those within the S&P 500.
In the end, the choice between VDE and XLE will hinge on individual investment goals, risk appetite, and desired market exposure. As always, potential investors should conduct thorough research and perhaps consult with financial professionals before making any investment decisions.


  1. Vanguard official website.
  2. SPDR official website.
  3. MSCI US Investable Market Energy 25/50 Index documentation.
  4. S&P 500 and Energy Select Sector Index documentation.

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