3 Easy Ways to Play the Recovery


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Friday's impressive jobs report, which showed aneconomy creating 192,000 new jobs in February, was even more impressive than you might think. The sheer quantity of jobs created -- nearly 200,000 -- was the best monthly figure in several years, but it's the types of jobs created that really matter.

The factory sector and the construction sector created 33,000 jobs apiece, aiding a six-figure jump in service-sector employment. The factory sector had been shrinking for nearly two decades, while and the construction sector has been on the ropes since 2007. That now looks set to change and I've found just the way toprofit .

The virtuous cycle
Service-sector jobs are important, but the factory and construction sectors really hold the key to a sustained upturn. That's because they both form the backbone of capital spending, and it's becoming increasingly clear that cash-rich companies are finally opening the spigot, laying the groundwork for the coming years. Once the process starts, it builds a head of steam as companies all along the economic food chain work to build inventories, upgrade equipment, and modernize or expand facilities.

In the past few years, many companies have been conserving capital, citing an uncertain economic and regulatory outlook. But as leading players in key industries shift gears, all of their rivals need to follow suit and start making similar investments.

Another reason we're on the cusp of a sustained upturn in capital spending: companies had been able to generate massive profit growth in the past few years by cutting costs. Yet, profit-growth rates are starting to slow as those efforts play out: Profits for companies in the S&P 500 are expected to rise just 10% in 2012, the lowest rate in three years. To keep profit growth at even that level in 2013 and beyond, companies will have to build profits the old-fashioned way -- through sales growth. To make that happen, companies must be in top form in terms of equipment, facilities, and research and development efforts.

That's why you need to make sure you have a large percentage of your investments levered to the "goods" part of the economy (as opposed to the past decade, when "services" was the place to be). And in this instance, picking the best horse in any sector isn't necessarily the way to go -- a rising tide will be lifting boats in all of the goods-producing sectors. I prefer the exchange-traded fund (ETF) approach instead, and these three ETFs could provide you with all of the exposure you need.

1. PowerShares Dynamic Industrials ( PRN )
This ETF holds a wide range of industrial firms such as Cummins ( CMI ) , General Electric ( GE ) and Honeywell ( HON ) . Nearly three-fifths of its holdings are in companies that make materials that go into the construction of factories, airplanes and mining equipment. And if the dollar keeps getting weaker, as I suspect will happen , then these companies are likely to be at the forefront of an export-led boom.

2. PowerShares Dynamic Building & Construction ( PKB )
This fund owns a smattering of home-builders but is mostly geared toward the more robust commercial construction sector. Companies have under-invested in their facilities in recent years to conserve cash, but will soon be modernizing existing facilities or building brand new ones. Capacity utilization at our nation's factories has risen more than 10 percentage points to a recent 73% since bottoming out in early 2009. Historically speaking, investments in capacity expansions begin when that figure moves into the upper 70s, a rate we're likely to hit later this year.

This ETF traded up to $20 back in 2007 when the economy was on healthy footing. Now it trades under $14 -- a nice entry point for those looking to play the coming capital spending boom.

3. Market Vectors Hard Asset ProducersIndex (HAP)
This ETF provides exposure to the capital-spending needs of the energy and agriculture sectors, both of which look set to sustain their impressive recent rebound. Companies such as ExxonMobil (XOM) , Deere (DE) and Archer-Daniels Midland (ADM) are among the 320 holdings in this ETF. It has recently been on the rise thanks to surging oil prices, and any further unrest in the Middle East would power the ETF to new heights.

Action to Take -->
The longstanding decline of the factory sector may be coming to an end as U.S. manufacturers begin to look especially competitive against ever-sharp global rivals. The construction sector has evidenced many periods of health, along with an equal number of downturns. Both of these groups look set to be firing on all cylinders in coming years, and these ETFS are solid ways to profit from the coming boom.

-- David Sterman

P.S. -- According to my colleague, a Russian "nuclear catastrophe" will hit the United States in 2013… and when it does, 31 million American's will suffer. Amazingly, no lives will be lost and a handful of energy stocks could rise hundreds of percent. I know it sounds bizarre, but this bulletin explains what you need to know…

Disclosure: Neither David Sterman nor StreetAuthority, LLC hold positions in any securities mentioned in this article.

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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This article appears in: Investing , ETFs
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David Sterman

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