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Longtime stock bull raises big red flag for 2015

With stocks at record highs and the Dow Jones Industrial Average less 1 percent from crossing 18,000 for the first time ever, strategist James Paulsen told CNBC on Monday he's going "underweight" the U.S. for 2015.

A late-year surge has pushed the Dow up 8.3 percent for 2014 as of Friday's record close. Paulsen, who's ridden the rally higher over the years, now sees a flat or even a negative year in 2015.

"There's some really, really strong Wall Street consensus themes right now. And one of them is 'the U.S. is the place to be.' Another one is 'the dollar is only going to go up.' The third one [is] 'rates can stay lower for longer,'" the chief investment strategist at Wells Capital Management said in a "Squawk Box" interview. "I kind of think that 2015 might resolve in disappointing every one of those themes. I would tilt against them in portfolios."

The Dow on Friday was less than 9 points from the key 18,000 level before trimming some gains to close at 17,958. Blue chips have gained 11.4 percent in less than two months.

"The whole foundation of this bull market we've been in since 2009 has been climbing a chronic wall of worry. That's been the primary catalyst for this run. That, to me, is over," Paulsen said, adding that good news is becoming bad news on Wall Street because it pushes the Federal Reserve closer to hiking interest rates.

He acknowledges that the U.S. economy has been doing better, with an improving job market as evidenced by Friday's strong employment report. But he said, "The stock market reflects a lot of that already. I think there's got [to be] better bets in 2015 ... in markets that have underperformed the U.S. the last couple of years and that I think are likely to bounce in 2015."

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Paulsen's thesis revolves around global central banks taking steps to improve their economies while the Fed gets ready to tighten next year. If the ECB and Bank of Japan are successful, their countries' stock markets and currencies could go higher in 2015, he said.

Later, Phil Orlando, senior portfolio manager at Federated, told CNBC he disagrees with Paulsen's prediction for U.S. stock in 2015

Orlando sees the S&P 500 next year 13 percent higher than current levels. "Corporate earnings, we think, are in a sweet spot right now. We're sort of mid-single digits, 7 percent or 8 percent [growth]. We've got $130 earnings next year versus $120 earnings this year."

He also put price-to-earnings ratio multiples at around 18 times in 2015, saying that's only a little expansion from this year's levels.

Alison Deans, chief investment officer at CRT Capital, said she doesn't see any multiple expansion next year, "just corporate profit growth ... at 7 percent or 8 percent."

"So, it gets you a total return of 8 percent to 10 percent," she said.

Another reason for optimism, she said, is that softening of economic growth overseas will give the Fed pause on rocking the boat by raising U.S. rates anytime soon.

"Unless things overseas get a lot worse or there's some [unexpected] event," Deans said, "the trends seem to be positive and not overly positive to cause concern on the inflationary side."

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