An admission: I'm a long-term buy and hold investor who knows better, but I still check my portfolio roughly 15.4 times a day. More often when the stock market's surging.

With the Dow at 11,000, Yahoo! Finance loves me. But as we all know (or should know), 11,000 is just a number. It should not spur any rash trading one way or the other.

To make the most of this arbitrary market event, I asked three of my fellow analysts for some advice for individual investors at these stock price levels.

Morgan Housel, Fool contributor: These milestones are generally meaningless, but I still think the market at these levels provides more opportunity than threat. The S&P 500 is on track to earn about $83 this year, and an estimated $94 next year. With the index at 1,165, I don't know where the overvaluation anxiety comes from. We're talking broad market multiples of 12-14, which should qualify as somewhere between cheap and reasonable -- with room for error. At the individual company level, high-quality companies like Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT) and Procter & Gamble (NYSE: PG) trade at valuations that shouldn't make sense to rational people.

My feeling is that the market's surge since the lows of March 2009 simply has many investors asking, "how is this increase justified?" They see a 70% market increase at a time when the economy looks like a cesspool, and it just feels wrong. But focusing only on the increase is misleading. The important question to ask is, "was the depth of the market crash justified to begin with?" I don't think it was. Look, corporate profits are at an all-time high. Nominal GDP is at an all-time high. Personal spending is at an all-time high. The long-term drivers of the stock market aren't doing as bad as some imagine.

Alex Dumortier, CFA, Fool contributor: Yes, last week the Dow crossed 11,000 for the first time since early May; however, it would be very difficult to argue that higher stock prices are now an opportunity for anyone who is a net buyer of stocks -- which I expect is almost everyone reading this.

Still, I will say that the blue-chip Dow index represents almost certainly a better opportunity than the broader market S&P 500, as the following table suggests:


P/E Multiple

Dividend Yield

3-5 Year EPS Growth









Source: State Street Global Advisors website.

At a cheaper multiple, I'll take the extra 80 basis points in dividend yield of the Dow ETF over the 160 basis point advantage in estimated earnings growth for the S&P 500 ETF any day of the week -- something about birds, hands, and bushes.

Investors who have the time and the ability can earn yet better returns from stockpicking and, given the underpricing of high-quality companies, the Dow components make a good shortlist from which to begin one's search (legendary investor John Paulson likes and owns at least three).

Matt Koppenheffer, Fool contributor: I don't pay a whole lot of attention to the Dow. The index contains all of 30 stocks, and it's really tough to get a good feel for what's going on in the massive U.S. market based on that small number.

Past that, it's meaningless to focus in on a number like 10,000, 11,000, or even 111,000. It looks nice in newspaper headlines, but the price level of an index is only noteworthy when looked at in the context of the profits produced by the companies in the index.

When I focus in on something more meaningful -- like the S&P 500's current price-to-earnings ratio of 16.6 -- I'd say that it's hard to peg the overall market as being particularly cheap or expensive. But I consider myself a stock-picker and I'd say that there are certainly opportunities for investors to find great individual stock opportunities in this market.

The great thing is that a lot of the market's current opportunities are high-quality, dividend-paying, blue chips. Intel's (Nasdaq: INTC) stock, for example, is currently sitting at a forward P/E of just 10.6 and is paying a 3.2% dividend. Chevron (NYSE: CVX) has a forward P/E below 10 and a 3.4% dividend. It doesn't take a whole lot of brain busting to figure out that these are top-notch companies, so when I see these kinds of valuations, I'm all over them.

For some more individual stock ideas, click here for a free report detailing five stocks the Motley Fool owns.

True to its name, The Motley Fool is made up of a motley assortment of writers and analysts, each with a unique perspective; sometimes we agree, sometimes we disagree, but we all believe in the power of learning from each other through our Foolish community.

Anand Chokkavelu owns shares of Microsoft. Intel and Microsoft are Motley Fool Inside Value selections. Chevron and Procter & Gamble are Motley Fool Income Investor picks. The Fool owns shares of and has written covered calls on Procter & Gamble. Motley Fool Options has recommended buying calls on Intel. Motley Fool Options has recommended a diagonal call position on Microsoft. The Fool owns shares of Intel, and Microsoft. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.