As this up-and-down year for stocks comes to a close, market watchers told CNBC on Monday that future gains will be tied to the corporate earnings.
Charles Kantor, head of the Kantor Group at Neuberger Berman, said on "Squawk Box" the comeback over the last month has been down to a better-than-expected earnings season. "Earnings are up 9 percent versus a year ago. When you started the cycle, you thought you'd get 4 percent."
It's going to be an earnings-driven market going forward now that the Federal Reserve has ended its latest quantitative easing bond-buying and poised to start hiking interest rates sometime next year, Kantor added.
Richard Bernstein, chief executive officer of the firm that bears his name, said he does not see trouble on the monetary policy front. "We're more in the camp that the economy is beginning to go on its own that it really doesn't need QE as would the economy in any other midcycle environment," he continued, pointing to high levels of consumer confidence as a positive for companies.
For the year, the Dow Jones Industrial Average is up 6 percent as of Friday's close. The is up nearly 10 percent in 2014. Both indexes head into Monday's session on the back of three straight weeks of gains.
Alison Deans, chief investment officer at CRT Global, said in a separate "Squawk Box" interview that any further improvement in the market would come from profit growth. "Looking at top-line growth at 3 percent or 4 percent and bottom-line growth of 6 percent to 8 percent. I don't see the market doing much better than that next year."
That's a fair assessment of what to expect for stock returns in 2015, said Ed Keon, portfolio manager at Prudential's QMA. "They don't look terribly expensive by historical standards. But they do look fully priced."
Keon said he uses the acronym RSVP to determine whether a bear market is coming. His version of RSVP tests the factors of recessions, shocks, valuations and policy changes.
"As we were tested in October, we thought to ourselves: Are we likely to go into recession? No," he said. "Are we going to get a shock from Ebola or something else? ... We didn't think that was going to take us over."
"Are valuations way too high? No," he continued. "Fiscal policy is more or less set in stone. And monetary policy, the Fed has been pretty clear they are going to be pretty accommodative for at least another year or so."
Against the backdrop of those steady predictions for stocks, Savita Subramanian, head of U.S. equity and quantitative strategy at BofA Merrill Lynch, warned on "Squawk Box" that investors should not get caught chasing what she called a popular myth on Wall Street. "There a lot of investors betting on this year-end catch-up rally because hedge funds and active managers are underperforming. Actually, that never, ever works."