As emerging markets grapple with increasing economic and social problems, U.S.-focused exchange traded funds (ETFs) are seizing their moment to charge ahead.

Aside from slowly but surely improving economic numbers, there are other indications that the U.S. economy is getting on stronger footing:

  • Economists see China’s decreasing trade surplus as indicative of growing middle class that may be starting to shift from saving toward greater purchases of imported goods from the U.S. and other foreign countries, reports Douglas A. McIntyre for The Atlantic. U.S. exports suffered in the recession, so a turnaround on this front is welcome. [Faceoff: Developed and Emerging Market ETFs.]
  • Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal recently polled 51 economists about the U.S. GDP projections and reported that the economists “expect gross domestic product will be 3.5% higher in the fourth quarter of 2011 than a year earlier, up from the 3.3% increase they projected in last month’s survey. That would be the largest increase since 2003.”
  • Rising consumer and business confidence, along with tax cuts and small gains in employment, could also push the economy into faster growth.
  • Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke recently noted increasing “evidence that a self-sustaining recovery in consumer and business spending may be taking hold,” writes Kevin G. Hall for Miami Herald. “The recent gains in consumer spending look to have been reasonably broad-based,” adds Bernanke. [5 ETFs for the U.S. Equity Boom.]

There are still some real risks, however: unemployment is high, the real estate market continues to find its footing, inflation is a threat and consumers still aren’t spending at the levels some would like to see.

While there are a number of ways to play a U.S. economic recovery, you can’t deny the classics:

  • SPDR Dow Jones Industrial Average ETF (NYSEArca: DIA): The Dow Jones Industrial Average recently closed above 12,000 for the first time since 2008. Though the Dow (and DIA) only own 30 stocks, making it debatable as to how representative it is, it’s still one of the most closely-watched indexes in the world.
  • SPDR S&P 500 ETF (NYSEArca: SPY): The S&P 500 and SPY track the 500 largest stocks in the country. It’s considered the best barometer of how the United States economy is doing.
  • PowerShares QQQ Trust (NASDAQ: QQQQ): The NASDAQ is known for its large allocation to the technology sector. It also happens to be the top-performing index year-to-date, up nearly 17%.

Max Chen contributed to this article.

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.