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Surprise: ETrade doesn't allow shorts on these funds. I thought the big advantage of these funds was you could trade them just like stocks.

Is this some kind of rule I'm running into, or is there a more reasonable broker who can handle this?

Any broker is free to set any restrictions on trading they want.

In addition, you can only short shares of a stock if the broker has shares to lend you. My guess is that nobody at Etrade has USO in a margin account and thus available for shorting.

You could try another broker.
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