After a choppy first quarter, so far investors have been treated to a sweet Q2, with an impressive earnings season powering the S&P-tracking SPDRs exchange-traded fund (AMEX:SPY) to a rise of more than 4% during the month of April.

I'm a contrarian at heart; an investor more interested in stocks when they're trading closer to 52-week lows than to fresh yearly highs. Thing is, you can still find values during market upswings, and right now is a fine time for newbie investors to hit the market's sales rack. Doing so, after all, provides an excellent opportunity to assemble a high-quality portfolio on the cheap.

Naming names
Consider, for example, Bank of America (NYSE:BAC), Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT), and Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:JNJ).

Each of these stalwarts has bested the S&P 500 for the 10 years that ended with March, and all of 'em currently check in with price-to-earnings (P/E) ratios that fall below that of the broader market and typical industry rivals.

At the other end of the valuation spectrum are Comcast (NASDAQ:CMCSA), eBay (NASDAQ:EBAY), and Yahoo! (NASDAQ:YHOO). These stocks sport juicier P/Es, it's true, but that owes to investor expectations: Analysts estimate that this power trio will grow earnings at a clip of 20% or greater over the next five years.

We'll have to wait and see whether the analysts turn out to be right, of course. Still -- and despite the age-old investing saw about buying low in order to sell high -- it sometimes makes sense to buy high in order to sell higher. Where the market is concerned, "cheap" can be a relative term, and savvy investors know how to pluck bargains from amid the market's luxury lineup, too.  

Mix it up
As the stocks name-checked above perhaps suggests, I think the smartest way to navigate upswings -- and downturns for that matter -- is with a thoughtfully designed portfolio: one built on a solid foundation of stocks and mutual funds that aren't likely to keep you up at night worrying over nest egg crackups. Then, once that's in place, you can look to racier fare if you're willing to tolerate greater volatility in exchange for potentially greater rewards.

We've covered investment vehicles of both persuasions in Motley Fool Green Light. If you're new to the wonderful world of investing -- or if you're back in action after taking a break -- test-drive (for free) the comprehensive approach to finances that Motley Fool Green Light provides by clicking here. Our mission is to help you dress for financial success through up markets and downs -- and there's no obligation to subscribe. Click here to snag a free 30-day guest pass. 

Shannon Zimmerman runs point on the Fool's Champion Funds newsletter service and co-advises Motley Fool Green Light with his pal Dayana Yochim. At the time of publication, he didn't own any of the securities mentioned above. Bank of America and Johnson & Johnson are Income Investor picks. Wal-Mart is an Inside Value pick. eBay and Yahoo! are Stock Advisor picks. You can check out the Fool's strict disclosure policy by clicking right here.