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Forget China. Focus on earnings, holiday sales: Stock picker

U.S. investors have been focused on a slowdown in China and a potential government shutdown, but they should be looking toward earnings season, Morgan Stanley Wealth Management's executive director, Dan Skelly, said Wednesday.

Skelly, a top-ranked stock picker in Barron's-Zacks latest rankings, said earnings revisions have been trending positively in recent months. Stock buyers will get more clarity on fundamental factors as the earnings season kicks into gear in the coming weeks, he added.

"I think you're going to have to see a number of key things. No. 1 is earnings. No. 2 is holiday spending and the consumer," Skelly told CNBC's "Squawk Box." "Going into year-end we've seen a strengthening consumer trend over the last couple of months. That's played out via housing and retail sales."

A strong Thanksgiving and Black Friday sales season would remind investors that the U.S. economy remains in good shape, he added.

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Heading into the third-quarter earnings season, the strong U.S. dollar, which was a "major impact" in the first half of the year, won't weigh so heavily, Skelly said. While the greenback remains elevated, the rate of change has slowed significantly from the "massive move" in the first half, he explained.

"We think earnings over the October earnings season is going to be a big catalyst for the market," he said.

U.S. stocks have been mired in a revenue recession this year. Revenue for S&P 500 companies fell about 3 percent on a year-over-year basis in the first two quarters of the year. Analysts expect revenues to be down 3.3 percent in the third quarter, according to data from FactSet.

Skelly noted that the U.S. economy grew by 3.7 percent in the second quarter. He said he expects 2.5 to 3 percent growth for the remainder of the year.

In a recent note, Skelly said Morgan Stanley does not believe slowing growth in China is enough to drag the U.S. into recession. However, he said that further stimulus from the Chinese government could assuage fears among investors.

Savita Subramanian, head of U.S. equity and quantitative strategy at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, said Wednesday China could indeed take the United States off the rails.

"The idea that biggest driver of growth over the last two decades is going negative, I think that would be enough," she told "Squawk Box."

Last week, the Federal Reserve emphasized stress in overseas markets, such as China, after announcing it would not raise interest rates. Concerns about the Asian country's slowing growth has rocked equities and other assets around the world in recent weeks.

Read MoreFed rate decision 'discomforted' market: Richard Fisher

On Wednesday, Caixin China reported its closely watched measure of China's manufacturing activity fell to a 6 ½-year low in September.