As we roll into the close of 2015, it has been a flat year in the SPY.
If you have losing positions, you are likely being advised by your tax adviser to harvest those losses to offset your realized gains.
This same conversation is likely occurring in every office that manages money.
Use this to your advantage for planning your investments at the beginning of 2016. The wave of selling at year end 2015 will cause some stocks to get short term oversold, meaning there will be a capitulation move among stock holders. They will finally give up on the slope of hope and bail.
When the selling stops, buyers will move in to get the bargains.
The risks of taking advantage of this opportunity include a 30 day wait period preventing the 2015 sellers from buying back in to the same positions in 2016, keeping prices down. If the stock or ETF is heavily shorted, the closing of those shorts in early 2016 may offset this phenomenon. The short covering may actually fuel a stronger bounce that gets further momentum from the 30 day period wait on the part of some buyers.
There is also always the risk of overstaying your welcome on a bounce from an unloved stock or ETF.
On the other hand, winning positions tend to get some selling in January, once the tax liability of the previous year is passed. This yields opportunities for bargain hunters as the institutional profit taking leads to price declines in winners. Look out for those opportunities.
If you buy and hold, these strategies are not for you. If you have some taste for volatility opportunities, a flat year on the index can still be profitable.