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Bob Doll: How I'm playing the back half of 2015

Closely watched equity strategist Bob Doll said Friday he expects the investment outlook to improve in the second half of 2015 on the back of consumer confidence and better earnings.

"I think the economy is picking up from where it was and we have a good shot at, during the third quarter, releasing 3 percent GDP for the second quarter, and that should lead to some good earnings surprises on the upside," the Nuveen Asset Management chief equity strategist told CNBC's "Squawk on the Street."

Doll said his forecast is based in part on improvement in the consumer's condition over the last six weeks, as evidenced by better jobs numbers, retail sales data and housing figures. That consumer strength, he said, should create the necessary condition for a "decent" second half for stocks: improved corporate earnings.

"The employment cost index has begun to move up a bit. I think we'll get some more, enough to give the consumer a little more confidence, a few more dollars to spend, and at least initially not enough to create pressure on corporate margins," he said. "So we could have a good period here."

Doll said he's sticking with financials, which have been "wonderful stocks" since touching lows last October.

Bank stocks are up nearly 10 percent over the last three months, making the industry the best performer in the S&P 500 over the last three months.

He also favors companies that can achieve unit growth and don't require pricing power. That should lead investors to health-care and some technology stocks, he said.

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Equities on the "deeper cyclical side"—including transports, energy and materials—will continue to lag without pricing power, he added.

The Dow Jones transportation average entered correction territory on a year-to-date basis this week.

Following a big run in the U.S. dollar, Doll said he is also underweight multinationals and heavily orienting his portfolio to domestic stocks. "Slower growth overseas and the rising currency—why not remain domestic?" he said.

James Paulsen, chief investment strategist at Wells Capital, took the opposite view, saying he is diversifying away from the United States on the expectation that U.S. stocks have little chance of avoiding a correction. That belief is underscored by his forecast that the United States will not see meaningful productivity growth in the next year, leaving little fuel for another move higher in markets.

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While he said he expects markets around the world will correct in sympathy, he also believes overseas markets will hold up better, giving investors a way to ride out the drop.

"The interesting thing about the problem the market faces is it's kind of a problem unique to the United States," Paulsen told CNBC's "Squawk Box." "We are the ones that are at full employment and maximal profit margins. Much of the rest of the world is in a different part of the cycle and don't have that issue."

U.S. markets can surge again, but that will likely require a correction to refresh values and sentiment, he said.