NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Over the past five years, the S&P 500 has averaged a 2.5% decline in the month of August.
But forget August -- investors shouldn't have much to worry about for the rest of the year if the Federal Reserve holds off on hiking interest rates, Jim Lebenthal of Lebenthal & Co., said on CNBC's "Fast Money Halftime" show. But he said the Fed will likely raise rates in September or December.
There's a "much higher likelihood" of the Fed hiking in December, added Josh Brown, CEO and co-founder of Ritholtz Wealth Management. Conversely, there's almost no chance the Fed will hike in September, but either way, investors shouldn't lose sleep over such a small increase, which will likely be around 25 basis points.
Although labor data have been strong, the lack of inflation makes it hard for the Fed to raise rates, explained Stephen Weiss, founder and managing partner of Short Hills Capital Partners LLC. He reiterated that investors shouldn't worry about an increase in interest rates and should instead look for buying opportunities in the technology, financial and health care sectors.
Bonnie Baha, a portfolio manager at DoubleLine Capital, called Friday's wage data "awful," noting that the employment cost index was the worst result since 1982. Most of this year's stock gains have come from retail -- Apple (AAPL) - Get Report is in that group -- and from health care. Investors shouldn't fight the trend, she said.
But Baha said she didn't care for financials, as the sector will likely underperform the market if the Fed doesn't hike rates this year, which she believes will be the case.
John Spallanzani, a strategist at GFI Group, said that investors are being too pessimistic. Earnings are trending higher, the economy is not entering a recession, and there's at least one to two more years left in the bull market, he said. He likes stocks and bonds.
Speaking of earnings, not all is well in the energy sector. ExxonMobil (XOM) - Get Report and Chevron (CVX) - Get Reportreported their worst earnings in years. Both stocks are down about 3.5% in response.
Investors can hold onto these stocks for the dividend, but don't expect the share price to appreciate, Lebenthal said. For that to happen, oil prices need to rebound, but there's so much pent-up supply it seems unlikely that a significant rally will ensue any time soon.
Lebenthal said it depends on investors' timelines. If they are looking three to five years from now, then Exxon and Chevron should do fine.
But there are plenty of other stocks that are likely to do much better, Brown argued. "This sector is just not cheap enough given where oil is," he added, and Weiss said he would avoid energy stocks in the short term.
Baha pointed out that 14% to 15% of the high-yield market -- and in some funds even more -- are comprised of energy companies. Some of those companies will be attractive buys at some point in the future, and some of the less financially secure companies will go belly up, she said
This article is commentary by an independent contributor. At the time of publication, the author held no positions in the stocks mentioned.