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The strategist who cautioned investors about the dot-com bubble in early 2000s, now sees this in 2017

When the Nasdaq was hitting all-time records during the dot-com bubble, Ned Riley alerted investors to brace for steep declines.

But now, the veteran stock market strategist says there's nothing to fear as technology stocks jump to new highs.

In fact, Riley believes tech will be the big winner next year, especially as revenue picks up from the overseas markets and delivers a tremendous boost to profits.

"I look at 2017 as an exciting year," said Riley, who runs research firm Riley Asset Management, Thursday on CNBC's "Futures Now." "Secular growth for this sector is particularly strong for the next three to five years."

Riley points out he doesn't detect the "irrational exuberance" that characterized the tech bubble in 1999 and 2000. He says financial prospects for companies are clearly improving, not fading.

"Earnings are starting to turn up again. It looks like we'll have a plus year in 2017. It may not replicate the same kind of recoveries we've seen from cyclical lows. But still I think something on the order of 5 to 8 percent seems reasonable for the S&P 500," said Riley.

The Nasdaq surpassed the 5,500 level for the first time ever on Tuesday, before losing some momentum to close at 5,487.44. But that was still a record close for the index, which is up more than 8 percent this year.

"As far as the market itself is concerned, the valuation may be on the high end, but people seem to ignore the fact that when you look at the price-earnings ratio to the inflation rate, which is running at about 2 percent, it doesn't seem that unreasonable relative to history," he said.

Riley, a frequent guest on CNBC during the late 1990s and early 2000s, was the chief investment strategist at State Street Global Research. The Nasdaq has soared nearly 400 percent since hitting the bubble low on Oct. 9, 2002.

He has been a bull on tech stocks for the past five years, says Apple is his top tech pick. It's a name he's owned long term.

"Apple still looks like the cheapest stock out there," said Riley. "I just think that they're [investors] pricing it wrong and they're not pricing it to the long-term growth rate."

As for a higher interest environment in 2017? Riley doesn't expect the trend to stop tech stocks such as Google parent Alphabet and Amazon from surging.

"This has been a bull market that everyone has learned to hate," he said.

"If one looks at the asset allocation exposure that they have in the markets, that's the critical element. The public has been buying bonds to the tune of over a trillion dollars for the last four years. And that money is what I think is going to be the strong equity money which pushes this market up next year."

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