Invest your money HERE in 2016: Strategist

Investors looking for positive returns in 2016 should look at regional banks and homebuilder stocks, Michael Arone of State Street Global Advisors said Thursday.

"What you want to think about heading into 2016 is who is able to grow their top-line revenue, who's able to benefit from a strong U.S. consumer, and which parts of the market that may benefit from the beginning of normalization in monetary policy," the firm's chief investment strategist told CNBC's "Squawk on the Street."

"We think homebuilders and regional banks fit those characteristics," he said.

Those sectors have struggled for gains this year, with the SPDR S&P Homebuilders ETF (XHB) and the iShares U.S. Regional Banks ETF (IAT) gaining just 2.32 percent and 1.75 percent, respectively.

Arone also said he projects the U.S. economy to have a tough time next year.

"We expect the U.S. to continue to struggle and have pretty uneven economic growth," he said.

Joseph LaVorgna, chief economist at Deutsche Bank, echoed Arone's comments about the economy in another "Squawk on the Street" interview on Thursday.

"I see growth next year of about 2.2 percent on a year-over-year basis. That's down 50 basis points from where I've been," he said. "Growth in 2017 [is] staying at about 2 percent."

"There are risks around those forecasts both upside and downside, although recently I've been accentuating more the downside risk in light of how fast the dollar has appreciated."

Both Arone and LaVorgna also said they expect the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates next week.

A Fed rate hike would mark the first time in nearly a decade that the central bank has raised interest rates and the first time since the financial crisis that the U.S. would be off of near-zero rates. The odds of a rate increase are 85 percent, according to the CME Group's FedWatch tool.

Still, David Lebovitz, global market strategist at JPMorgan Funds, said a rate hike would take away from the uncertainty surrounding the market and the economy next year.

"The Fed is contributing to uncertainty right now," he said, also on "Squawk on the Street." "We just need more clarity on where things may be headed."

Jeffrey Kleintop of Charles Schwab, however, believes otherwise.

"I think the discussion shifts to when's the next meeting," the firm's chief global investment strategist told CNBC's "Power Lunch" "The volatility remains for the market."

Energy may be forming bottom, but ...

State Street's Arone also said the much embattled energy sector could be bottoming out.

"If you go back to the financial crisis, and you think about when financials began cutting their dividends, that was a sign that things had bottomed. We're now starting to see that energy companies have gone far and away, in terms of their capital investment projects ... and now it's time for them to be cutting their dividends," he said.

The energy sector — the biggest laggard in the S&P 500 — has shed about 20 percent in 2015, pushed lower by a fall in oil prices.

Still, Schwab's Kleintop said it may be premature to call a bottom in this sector.

"I think a lot of what we're seeing in that sector is questions about what is the next round for many of these energy companies. We believe it will be years before demand catches up to where supply is in the energy sector. I think it will be quite some time of difficulty in that area," he said.