For the past couple of years, investors have been wise to stick with the U.S. stock market, which has shown more stability than markets elsewhere, said Rick Vollaro, chief investment strategist with Pinnacle Advisory Group in Columbia. But for 2013, he suggests that investors set their sights overseas.

"We've already dipped a toe in Europe," he said. His firm put money in exchange-traded funds that follow a European stock market index and one that tracks the Italian stock market, which is down by more than 70 percent since 2007 recession.

Europe is still digging out of its fiscal problems, but if the economies there merely stabilize, that would be good news for investors, he said.

Vollaro said his firm also is raising its position in emerging markets, particularly China.

"China is attractive compared to the United States," agreed Brenda Wenning, principal of Wenning Investments in Newton, Mass. China's stock market isn't even close to hitting its highs, she said.

Wenning acknowledged that some of the economic data coming out of China is mixed, but added that the country appears to be growing, particularly in trade and manufacturing.

"China is in a position to emerge as the world's largest trading giant," she said.

Technology

This is one sector that could shine next year, experts say. Businesses have been sitting on piles of cash for a long time, waiting for clarity on spending cuts and tax increases.

Once that happens, businesses can plan their spending and likely will make technology updates that they had been putting off, experts say.

Many tech companies, including Apple, Microsoft and IBM, are holding a lot of cash, said Doug Ober, CEO of Adams Express Co. and Petroleum & Resources Corp. in Baltimore. He expects some will buy back their own shares, thus increasing the value of stock held by their investors.

Energy

This sector looks undervalued, largely because of what's been going on with natural gas, said Paul Larson, chief equity strategist for Morningstar. The marketplace has been flooded with a supply of natural gas, thanks to discoveries of new sources and developments in drilling methods. The price of natural gas has fallen by about two-thirds in the past four years, he said.

Larson predicts that natural gas prices will return to normal levels in the next couple of years. Indirectly, that would benefit Chicago-based Exelon, which acquired Baltimore's Constellation Energy this year, Larson said.

Natural gas is used to generate electricity. And as gas prices go up, the cost of electricity will go up for consumers, and that will mean higher Exelon earnings, Larson said.

Health care

As the number of older Americans continues to rise, so does their use of health-related products and services. This should benefit a wide range of health-related businesses, such as hospitals, pharmacy management companies and drug makers, particularly those making less-expensive generics, Ober said.

Health insurers also will benefit from having millions of new customers when the Affordable Care Act takes full effect in 2014, he said.

But not all health care-related companies stand to gain as the United States grapples with the rising cost of health care. Hospitals that have many patients on Medicaid and Medicare, the government programs that pay for health care for the poor and elderly, could see their payments reduced through federal spending cuts, Ober said.

Bonds