The global economy hasn't healed itself. Not yet.
Several countries in Europe are on unsustainable paths, leading to debt burdens they won't be able to service. Japanese companies can't sell products at a profit with the yen at a 15-year high. And shortly after the midterm elections swing Republican -- shortly after the "boost" is priced into the markets -- too-big-to-fail states such as California will obtain bailout dollars from the U.S. federal government.
Permabears will continue pressing these points and a half-dozen others as they look to gain Nouriel Roubini-like fame. They may have to wait beyond this year for their "I-told-you-so" moment, though.
Here are three ETF signs bullishness is likely to lead the supercharge in the near term:
1. Currency ETFs: It still bothers me that the CurrencyShares Yen Trust is hitting 52-week highs. There's little doubt investors in the "run-for-cover" currency are fearful of developed-world troubles; yen carry trade investors aren't borrowing/shorting/selling the yen to invest in higher-yielding currencies.
On the other hand, carry trade investors are increasingly comfortable borrowing/selling the U.S. dollar to invest in the highest-yielding developed-world currency, the Australian dollar, and stock assets. How can you tell? PowerShares Dollar Bullish fell below a 200-day long-term moving average and CurrencyShares Australian Dollar Trust hit a 52-week high Monday.
2. Small-cap emerging-stock ETFs: It's one thing to track clusters of single-country emergers (Singapore, Malaysia, Peru and Chile, for instance), uncovering a thirst for capital appreciation in parts of Latin America and Asia. Yet most of these emerging-stock ETFs represent large companies earning profits domestically and internationally; stable governments and above-trend GDP are exceptional tailwinds as well.
That said, you won't get heavy inflows and supersized gains from the smallest companies in emerging markets -- unless there's a willingness to ratchet up the risk. Hitting fresh 52-week highs Monday: WisdomTree Emerging Small Cap Earnings, S&P SPDR Emerging Small Cap and Market Vectors Small Cap Brazil.
3. Commodity ETFs: Skeptics will express that, when precious metals are near 52-week highs, investors are fearful. And I won't argue that gold at $1,250 per ounce isn't a bit like seeing the yen at 52-week highs -- strangely peculiar for a stock market revival.
On the other hand, when the demand for raw goods from hard assets to soft commodities is strong, materials corporations begin raking in the profits. The iShares Materials Fund is in a technical uptrend, thanks in part to new 52-week highs from the iShares Silver Trust, PowerShares Agriculture, Soft Commodities with exposure to coffee, sugar and cotton, as well as the broad Greenhaven Total Commodity ETF.
Broad commodity indexes hitting 52-week highs? The highest-yielding G-10 currency and focus of the carry trade (that Australian dollar again) doing the same? Small-cap emergers from the furthest point out on the common stock risk spectrum registering peaks as well? Those are three pretty darn good ETF signs market movers want this rally to have bull hooves.