Analysts' top sectors and stock picks for 2016

An employee talks on the phone as he views trading screens at the offices of Panmure Gordon and Co.
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An employee talks on the phone as he views trading screens at the offices of Panmure Gordon and Co.

Markets are set to end on a relatively flat note in 2015, something that experts debate as a positive or negative.

But on New Year's Eve, it's out with the old and in with the new, so putting the end of the year aside, here's what sorts of plays investors should look to make in 2016:

Sectors to watch in 2016

"One of the golden rules of investing is follow the money," Tanglewood CIO John Merrill told CNBC's "Power Lunch" on Thursday. "You want to invest in places where the money will flow despite the weak economy that we have. And I think you'll want to look at government, you want to look at businesses, and consumers and say, 'What will they spend on despite the weak economy?' "

According to Merrill, one of these areas is defense.

"It's not just about the homegrown terrorism and the type of defense spending that that creates, but also defense spending around the world, building navies, building armies, technology that goes with that," he said.

Merrill also said he'd be watching the technology area but given the weak economy, he'd focus specifically on things that help cost control.

"One of the problems of our sluggish economy is technology is displacing more and more of the type of jobs that would have gone to middle-class people in decades past," he said. "But our U.S. companies and their managements have been tremendous at keeping costs under control, and technology has been a big part of that. So I would look at the Japanese, European and American manufacturers that concentrate on robotics and the areas that really influence that.

Merrill added that he would not be joining other investors who are scooping up energy and oil stocks at a time when the sector has fallen more than 20 percent over the course of the year.

Top stock picks

Jordan Posner, senior portfolio manager and managing director at Matrix Asset Advisors, told CNBC's "Power Lunch" that he likes three particular stocks going into 2016. His picks are Zimmer Biomet, Harley-Davidson and Johnson Controls.

"We're looking for companies where there's a meaningful difference and there's the ability of the company to actually proactively close that gap," said Posner.

While his stock picks are very different from each other, what binds them is the fact that all three are facing change.

"In the case of Johnson Controls, new management came in about two years ago and has really been revamping the portfolio," Posner said. "The last part of the change in the portfolio is that they're going to spin off the low multiple, low growth, low profit auto business and going to be focusing on some higher margin higher growth industrial businesses."

Posner added that Zimmer also made a similar move by merging with Biomet to create "a large and dominant player in orthopedic devices." Posner said Zimmer took on a lot of debt in the merger but he expects to see nice earnings accretion for the company going forward.

In the case of Harley-Davidson, Posner expects earnings to continue growing there, as well. The motorcycle company is dealing with increased competition, said Posner, but it's taking cost savings to reinvest in marketing and new product development.