NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- If the bull market for 2013 was not enough to convince investors that the global economy is well on its way to recovery from The Great Recession, the report just out from the Markit Purchasing Managers' Indexes that Germany, Japan, and Italy had the fastest manufacturing growth in years should dispel any lingering doubts.
Recent articles on TheStreet detailed how the U.S. and China have set records for import and export activity. Combined with the data from the Markit PMI, that evinces that the four biggest economies in the world (U.S., China, Japan, Germany) are steaming along. Japan is growing at its fastest rate in more than seven years, with Germany, Italy and others contributing to the strongest growth in the Eurozone since mid-2011.
It is also positive for the commodities that fuel manufacturing activity. Natural gas, used more and more to power factories, was the best performing commodity in 2013. Futures for natural gas rose by 26% in 2013. The strong performance continues as the exchange traded fund for natural gas, U.S. Natural Gas (UNG), is up more than 8% for the last month of market action.
Two commodities that have been battered in 2013 that are widely used in manufacturing could rebound in 2014, as natural gas did last year. Copper and coal are needed for a broad range industrial uses from wiring to pipes to providing power and heat for factories and other facilities. Due to The Great Recession and the plunge in demand, copper and coal prices fell dramatically. The coal ETF, Market Vectors Coal (KOL), was more than $60 a share in June 2008. It is now less than $20 a share. In June 2008, the copper ETF iPath DJ-UBS Copper (JJC), was more than $55 a share. Now it is around $41.00 a share.
For the last year, Market Vector Coal fell nearly 21%, with iPath DJ-UBS Copper declining by almost 10% over the same period.
Another ETF to consider for an industry that appears to be recovering from The Great Recession and would benefit from increased manufacturing and exporting around the world is the shipping sector Guggenheim Shipping (SEA)
Shipping Stocks Are Back Afloat recently detailed how the shipping group is showing signs of recovery. Up more than 37% for the last year, Guggenheim Shipping ETF is now around $21.60. In August 2008, it was more than $26 a share.
Like many other stocks in the bull market, Boeing, Siemens, Toyota and other major exporters soared during the last year. For investors looking to profit from the resurgent manufacturing sector, ETFs for coal, copper and shipping should benefit from more goods being produced and sold around the world. These ETFs are trading well below the peak price before the onslaught of The Great Recession.
But the sectors represented by Guggenheim Shipping, Market Vectors Coal, and iPath DJ-UBS Copper are all vital in the manufacturing process and international trade. The ETFs also offer greater protection for investors due to the range of assets in the holdings of each.
At the time of publication the author held no positions in any of the stocks mentioned.
This article represents the opinion of a contributor and not necessarily that of TheStreet or its editorial staff.