The idea of supplying customers with recommendations based on prior shopping habits isn't all that new. If you've signed on for service with Blockbuster or Netflix, you know about the movie recommendations they hook you up with (mine right now include Batman and Hairspray -- does that say something about me?). Shoppers on get a similar slew of suggestions based on previous purchases.

Investing in stocks may not exactly be comparable to renting a movie or buying a book, but with thousands of stocks out there, finding new ideas can be overwhelming. To help grease the ol' mental machinery, The Motley Fool's CAPS service recently started providing players with daily stock recommendations.

It works like this: CAPS members create a portfolio by rating some of their favorite (and least favorite) stocks. The super-secret stock-of-the-day algorithm -- which I've heard is run by a computer hooked up to 50,000 hamsters on wheels and uses calculations so complex they'd make Archimedes cry -- is then run. It churns out highly rated stocks for each player based largely on their prior selections and the current phase of the moon.

To give you a sampling of the ideas that CAPS is doling out, here are the five recommendations the CAPS supercomputer spit out for me last week:



Market Cap

CAPS Rating



$140 million



Banco Santander Central Hispano (NYSE:STD)

$115 billion




$1.1 billion



Goldcorp (NYSE:GG)

$15.3 billion



21st Century Holding (NASDAQ:TCHC)

$94 million


Data from Motley Fool CAPS as of Aug. 17, 2007.

As smart as the CAPS Stock of the Day algorithm may be, it's still just an algorithm, so be sure to look before you leap on any of its suggestions. With that in mind, I thought I'd kick you off with some thoughts on Banco Santander.

A better kind of STD
Back in March, one of the All-Star players in CAPS, mcgroh, picked Banco Santander as a potential outperformer, calling it a time-tested foreign stock pick. Mcgroh noted the bank's management, geographical diversity, and low P/E multiple.

Based in Spain, Banco Santander is among the largest banks in the world and the largest in the euro zone. It has major operations in Spain, the U.K., Portugal, Germany, Italy, and Latin America. Like other global banks such as Citigroup (NYSE:C), Banco Santander is diversified in its business lines. Retail banking makes up the largest portion of the bank's business, but it is also involved in corporate and investment banking, asset management, and insurance.

With a little less than half the market value of Citigroup, Banco Santander presumably has room to grow, and it is certainly on the lookout for opportunities. In a recent press release, the bank's chairman, Emilio Botin, said "Banco Santander has become one of the biggest and most profitable international financial institutions. This transformation wouldn't have been possible if we hadn't taken full advantage of the opportunities that have arisen."

The current opportunity Botin was referring to is the takeover bid for ABN Amro that the bank is in on with Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) and Fortis. Though Barclays (NYSE:BCS) is also hot on the trail of ABN, the higher bid from the RBS consortium has been looking good in recent weeks. The European Commission has even put the Santander portion of the bid on a fast-track approval process.

Should the RBS consortium win the bid, it plans to split ABN among the three banks. Banco Santander would get Banco Real in Brazil, Banca Antonveneta in Italy, and Interbank, a consumer finance business in the Netherlands.

Though global banking is under pressure right now thanks largely to the U.S. mortgage sector, CAPS players have spoken loud and clear on Banco Santander and its prospects for long-term success.

Now for the real question: Are you getting your own CAPS Stock of the Day selections? If not: What are you waiting for? CAPS is free, and getting your Stock of the Day picks is much more fun than having me get California's Governator to track you down and give you a wedgie. And don't think I won't do it ...

More CAPS Foolishness:

Fool contributor Matt Koppenheffer does not own shares of any of the companies mentioned. Matt tried to give The Fool's disclosure policy a wedgie, but was overpowered by its incredible might. Don't worry, he learned his lesson.