Rough start to 2016? Here's how to trade it

Rough start to the new year? You're not alone. China's markets are gyrating, geopolitical tensions are heating up and oil is selling off again. It's not exactly the ringing in that investors may have been hoping for.

But don't despair. Using big data cruncher Kensho, we found some of the best historical trades at the start of new calendar years looking back over the past 20 years.

The first quarter is generally a positive one for stocks. The S&P 500 has traded positive 14 of the last 20 years in Q1, or 70 percent of the time.

But it pays to be selective. Over the past two decades, small-cap stocks have typically returned more than large-cap names in the first quarter. Holding the blue-chip Dow Jones industrial average has been no better than a coin toss — half the time it has traded positive and half the time it's traded negative.

The Russell 2000 small-cap index, however, has been more reliable — trading positive more than half the time and returning about 1.6 percent on average.

Dow laggards include Procter & Gamble, Verizon and Merck — all of which have averaged negative returns since 1996.

One exception is Disney. It's a big name that typically sees big returns at the start of the year. It has been by far the best-performing Dow component, returning more than 7 percent on average and trading positive 85 percent of the time. And if you think "Star Wars" will continue to shatter records at the box office, Disney could get an added bounce.

Another new year trade may surprise you. Commodities went on a wild ride in 2015, and if history is any guide, oil and energy names could see a bounce at the start of 2016.

Energy has been the best performing sector in Q1 since 1996 — trading positive 86 percent of the time and returning nearly 3.5 percent on average.

In that same period, oil has reliably gained as well and moved higher 6.5 percent on average.

So if the turbulent market start to 2016 has got you down, you may want to consider some of these historical trades.

Disclosure: NBCUniversal, parent of CNBC, is a minority investor in Kensho.