Cheap gas prices to help consumers: Cowen CEO

If you're looking for a bright spot in what's been a rocky start to 2016, look no further than the U.S. consumer, Jeffrey Solomon, CEO of Cowen and Co., said Friday.

"A decadelong of repairing balance sheets on a personal level has boded well for the U.S. consumer," Solomon told CNBC's "Worldwide Exchange." With lower oil leading to cheaper gasoline prices, he thinks "the U.S. consumer will surprise people."

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Despite drug-pricing debates in 2015, Solomon also is upbeat on what he calls the megatrend of health care. He predicts biotech and emerging health-care companies will continue to tap the public markets for financing, with a better year for IPOs.

"There's a tremendous backlog of great companies that need to be financed, and that will be financed," Solomon said. "I think you'll see health care continue to outperform."

Patrick O'Keefe, director of economic research at CohnReznick, joined Solomon on "Worldwide Exchange" on Friday, and stressed the link between the health of the U.S. economy and China.

"Typically in the U.S. we look at our trade deficit rather than looking at the fact that international trade accounts for more than a quarter of the U.S. economy," O'Keefe said. "China is a very big element of that — not just because of the bilateral trade but because of China's influence throughout the international market."

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The connection between the U.S. and China was clear in sell-offs across major stock indexes this week.

"A lot of people enter the market by basically buying every stock, so markets tend to overreact," Solomon said. "We could certainly continue to see a pullback but that's the type of volatility you expect."

But market pullbacks, Solomon added, are not always bad news. "People can reassess whether or not they want to re-enter the market, and that's a positive thing."