If the stock market rally continues, last year's laggards may be this year's winners.

Many of the sectors that could do well are late bloomers in the five-year bull run. They may not seem like obvious choices, yet are worthwhile if you're contrarian or slightly defensive.

Assuming economic fundamentals and corporate earnings remain solid, it could be a decent year for stocks overall and even better for companies that were neglected in 2013.

"I'm optimistic," said Diane Swonk, chief economist for Mesirow Financial in Chicago, who predicts three-percent GDP growth and the creation of up to three million jobs this year.

"I haven't felt bullish in a long time," Swonk said at the annual economic outlook luncheon of the Executive Club of Chicago on January 9.

Real Estate Rebound

A surge in institutional buying came in 2012 among homebuilding stocks. But last year, Wall Street moved on and real estate underperformed every sector in the S&P 500 except for basic materials, rising just 6 percent for the year through January 10, according to Morningstar.

This year could be different if the economy continues to create more jobs and spur long-term demand for all kinds of real estate, from single-family homes to commercial storage units.

The most recent Case-Shiller Home Price index report showed U.S. home prices posting their strongest annualized gain in seven years. There's still much pent-up demand for homes and commercial properties. With mortgage rates expected to remain relatively low, the real estate sector still has some promise.

Exchange-traded funds that invest in real estate investment trusts are a worthy consideration, especially if you are looking for extra yield.