There are certain stocks and exchange traded funds (ETFs) pulling ahead and doing quite well amid the recession, and they may surprise you.

Because of the uncertain economic climate, consumers are cutting back and doing things like eating at home, holding onto their cars longer and not spending on entertainment. This means discount retailers are also doing well, and Laura Cohn for Kiplinger says that there may be plenty of time for these stocks to run, as consumers are still skittish (although that improved somewhat in January).

Here are six stocks that Cohn says are doing well amid the slower-than-usual economy, and some ETFs that hold the companies:

  • Netflix (NFLX): The company, which mails DVDs to your home and delivers movies over the Internet via its new Roku device, has seen its market share jump from less than 6% in 2003 to 18% last year, proving conspicuous consumption may be dwindling.
  • American Italian Pasta (AIPC): Dining in and cooking meals at home is one of the first things consumers do when tightening their belts. Shares in this company are up 57% this year alone.
  • General Mills (GIS): The stock of General Mills, which makes everything from Cheerios to Betty Crocker cake mixes, has been less stellar, sinking 19%, to $50.85, so far in 2009. There is much more room for advances in 2009 as the consumers stay in.
  • Family Dollar Stores (FDO): This chain now appeals to the middle-class family, as the expanded line of goods include food and other necessities.
  • Advance Auto Parts (AAP): Rather than buy a new car, many are putting money into ones they already own. Car part shops have done well thanks to many do-it-yourself types.
  • O’Reilly Automotive (ORLY): Shares of O’Reilly have risen 13% this year, to $34.78; the dramatic slowdown in new-car purchases gives parts retailers a tail wind that will last 12 to 18 months, says Anthony Cristello, an analyst at BB&T Capital Markets.

These ETFs hold some of the aforementioned stocks. Before jumping in, be sure to watch the trend lines, and follow a strategy such as the 200-day moving average.

  • SPDR S&P Retail (XRT): up 15% year-to-date; Netflix 2.6%, Family Dollar Stores 2.2%

  • PowerShares Dynamic Food & Beverage (PBJ): down 9.4% year-to-date; General Mills is 4.6%

The opinions and forecasts expressed herein are solely those of Tom Lydon, and may not actually come to pass. Information on this site should not be used or construed as an offer to sell, a solicitation of an offer to buy, or a recommendation for any product.