A new year is on the horizon and, with many of the dampers of 2015 winding down, investors are now looking for new opportunities in the U.S. equities markets. In particular, China and the Fed will take a back seat to consumers and earnings in 2016, experts told CNBC.
Stock markets floundered Monday morning ahead of two scheduled addresses from Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen this week, continuing on the theme of gradually increasing interest rates that pervaded most of 2015. Also on the agenda Monday were International Monetary Fund comments on the Chinese currency, as China's economy and stock market staged an uneven transition from manufacturing this year.
But with more certainty around interest rates and stability in China expected next year, fund managers are looking to see if earnings and revenue will see enough of a boost from the consumer sector, experts told CNBC's "Squawk on the Street."
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The targeted stimulus measures that the Chinese government has been implementing over the last few months have succeeded in stabilizing the economy, Gabriela Santos, global market strategist at JPMorgan Funds, told CNBC on Monday.
"We really see the macro backdrop in China stabilizing," said Thomas Costerg, U.S. senior economist at Standard Chartered Global Research. "So we don't see the major risk coming from there. But obviously that's something to watch next."
Uncertainty around Federal Reserve moves also seems to have calmed, Costerg said, with the market expecting Yellen to reinforce an agenda to gradually increase interest rates, with the next meeting just two weeks away.
But the fate of consumers and companies was still up for debate. Santos said she expects consumer spending to continue to drive companies' revenues higher, which will translate into a steady 2 percent growth in the new year.
"We're continuing on that positive consumer story," Santos said Monday. "That's been a big story for this year, and we think there's more steam for next year."
But Costerg said he thinks the economy will face headwinds next year. He thinks car sales, for instance, will plateau in the next year.
"There's a tightening in the economy," Costerg said. "And on top of that, cyclical tailwinds are fading."
Given the changing landscape, experts are cautious as to how the broader U.S. equities market will fare next year.
"Our view is earnings are going to grow about 4 percent per year; that's our base-case assumption for the S&P 500. On top of that, you have a little bit more than a 2 percent net buyback in revenues for 2016. You could say, 'OK, I have 6 percent net earnings growth; I've got close to a 2 dividend and an 8 percent,' and that sounds pretty good," Adam Parker, chief U.S. equity strategist at Morgan Stanley, told CNBC's "Fast Money: Halftime Report" on Monday.
"But we couldn't really forecast any multiple expansion. In fact, we think that maybe it's prudent to assume some contraction from the way our team is forecasting the strong dollar, the way our team is forecasting the Fed to get off the zero bound," he said. "We're forecasting low- to mid-single-digit return in the U.S. equity market, so it's maybe a little less unicorns and lollipops than I thought maybe a few months ago."
Even longtime bull Brian Belski said Monday he had some concerns about next year.
"We continue to believe that we're in the midst of a 20-year bull market," BMO Capital Markets' chief investment strategist told CNBC's "Power Lunch." "But we do believe we need to see a bit of a reset in stock prices."
Belski said several factors, including new Fed monetary policy and the upcoming elections, could send the market into a "pretty sizable correction," adding that his base-case scenario has the S&P 500 rising to a high between 2,350 and 2,400 before falling 10 percent.
He does, however, predict that the benchmark index will recover to 2,100 by the end of 2016.