As any good investor knows, tips are best left for waiters. Ideas, however, are the lifeblood of any dedicated stock picker. Besides the stock-idea fairy, ideas come from a variety of sources, including stock screens, financial news sites, and now, Motley Fool CAPS. Using a super-secret algorithm, CAPS scans users' existing portfolios of stock selections, and serves up a similar highly rated stock each weekday to complement their previous picks.

As a sample of CAPS' wizardry, here are the five recommendations it gave me last week:



Market Cap

CAPS Rating (out of 5) 


Charles Schwab (NASDAQ:SCHW)

$32.58 billion




$8.04 billion



National Interstate (NASDAQ:NATL)

$632.51 million



Teledyne Technologies (NYSE:TDY)

$1.80 billion



Gildan Activewear (NYSE:GIL)

$2.48 billion


Data provided from Motley Fool CAPS and Yahoo! Finance as of Dec. 28.

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 a couple of these ideas.

How's your portfolio?
If you've had Stock Advisor recommendation Charles Schwab or Ameritrade in your portfolio over the past few months, your answer might be "strong, to quite strong."

Most self-directed investors know these two brokerage houses. Along with Fidelity and E*Trade (NASDAQ:ETFC), they represent the 400-pound gorillas in the online brokerage segment. Excluding E*Trade, whose stock has bombed this year following some overreaching in the mortgage market, the brokerage houses have been leaving the rest of Wall Street in the dust lately.

As fear and uncertainty continue to grip the market, retail investors seem to be doing a lot more clicking. Both Schwab and TD reported high levels of trading activity in their most recent monthly reports. TD's numbers were good enough to bump the company's earnings estimates up to $0.39, or $0.06 above the high end of its previously announced range. Looking forward, the volatility seems unlikely to dry up any time soon. And while E*Trade's trying hard to win back customers, a good many of its former patrons are likely still up for grabs.

CAPS All-Star SNHamilton believes that the itchy trigger fingers of individual investors will pay off for Ameritrade. He recently rated the stock an outperformer, arguing that "more and more small investors will play with [their] portfolios from their couch going forward, and this company stands to profit from that."

But now for the real question: Are you getting your own CAPS Stock of the Day selections yet? If not, what are you waiting for? CAPS is free, and getting your own personalized daily picks is much more fun than, say, getting an atomic wedgie from California's Governator.

More CAPS Foolishness:

Charles Schwab is a Stock Advisor selection. Try any of our Foolish newsletters free for 30 days.

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.