Despite the fact that about two-thirds of S&P 500 companies have beaten earnings expectations, the index is down nearly 4% so far this year. What have we learned? Stocks may have gotten ahead of themselves in 2013, and beating expectations is no longer enough to pull the market up as a whole. 

What's encouraging has been the reaction to individual earnings reports. Procter & Gamble (NYSE:PG), Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT), and Caterpillar (NYSE:CAT) all jumped recently after their numbers came out, even though they couldn't excite the market. Individual companies doing well is an encouraging sign even if it doesn't get traders excited on a day-to-day basis.

Buy and hold is still the way to beat the market
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Erin Miller has no position in any stocks mentioned. Travis Hoium manages an account that owns shares of Procter & Gamble. The Motley Fool recommends Procter & Gamble. The Motley Fool owns shares of Microsoft. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.