The market will likely finish higher this year led by technology and health care shares. Nevertheless, stocks could continue to see near term pressure until oil prices and China stabilize, said Alan Gayle, senior investment strategist at RidgeWorth Investments.
"We believe the economy is in sound shape here," said Gayle. "We think the consumer is stronger in 2016 -- not weaker -- and so ultimately the underlying fundamentals for the economy remain good. We think profits are going to gain traction and that will lead to higher stock prices."
Gayle said absolute equity valuations remain reasonable and are attractive relative to bonds. He added that macro momentum has slowed in recent months and investor confidence has waned as Wall Street struggles to compute the impact of falling oil prices.
Oil appears to have become a proxy for global economic strength and is often the culprit for market weakness, according to Gayle. Low oil prices are positive for the U.S. consumer, of course, and Gayle said he remains positive for consumers who continue to recover from the setbacks of the 2008-2009 financial crisis.
In his view, income gains are being supported by job growth and wage increases, and the average American's balance sheet is strengthening due to rising home values and falling delinquencies.
"The weight of the global economy currently rests on the shoulders of the U.S. consumer," stated Gayle. "We expect that to change as businesses pare inventories, excess oil supplies eases and China stabilizes growth. But until it does, investors are likely to remain nervous, putting downward pressure on equity prices over the near term."
Finally, Gayle said China's economic troubles are one of his key risks for the coming year when it comes to derailing a U.S. rally.
"China is bringing all its policy tools to bear and the risk is that as they allow the currency to devalue and they cut interest rates that they become a disruptive force in the markets, particularly in Southeast Asia," said Gayle.
"As long as it's an orderly process in China, I think the U.S. will weather it just fine."