Stupidity is contagious. It gets us all from time to time. Even respectable companies can catch it. As we do every week, let's take a look at five dumb financial events this week that may make your head spin.
1. The price is plight
You have to admire the moxie of Toll Brothers (NYSE: TOL ) CEO Robert Toll.
"Congress has allocated hundreds of billions of dollars to reset mortgages, help people who are in foreclosure, and protect those who have been the victims of rapacious lending practices," CEO Robert Toll said this week. "We believe all of these goals are very worthy. However, we believe that, if home prices are not stabilized, these efforts will be for naught, more mortgages will go under, and the taxpayers' money will have been wasted."
Nice try. It's easy to see why Toll wants home prices to stop falling. The average contract for the luxury developer this past quarter was nearly 15% lower than it was getting the quarter before. However, why delay the inevitable with taxman trickery like rolling out a buyer tax credit? There's a glut of vacant pre-existing homes on the market. Supply and demand logic points to lower prices, and it is then that stability will happen naturally. If Toll doesn't like that, maybe it should stop building homes. At least it will be helping with the excess supply that way.
2. Farewell to Fred, Ethel, and Lucy
Sirius XM (Nasdaq: SIRI ) is ruffling the feathers of XM subscribers, after replacing many of their commercial-free music channels with somewhat similar Sirius offerings. The move will save the company on programming expenses, but at what cost? With subscriber growth decelerating, conversion rates slipping, and the company trying to convince listeners to pay more for a "Best of Both" offering, maybe this isn't the best time to turn satellite radio into a monopoly.
3. EA finally puts gamers "in the game"
In a move to cash in on Wii's popular lifestyle gameplay, Electronic Arts (Nasdaq: ERTS ) is introducing EA Sports Active. The personal fitness program hopes to create a more Western approach to workouts than Nintendo's (OTC BB: NTDOY.PK) own Wii Fit. After two decades of EA Sports titles that inspire sedentary lifestyles, Electronic Arts is finally getting gamers out of the hypocritical couch-potato mode.
That's good. What isn't good is the timing. EA Sports Active isn't coming out in time to score holiday sales this year. It's not even hitting the market in January, when folks scramble to join gyms to help deliver on their New Year's resolutions. Instead, EA is releasing the game in March, just when the weather starts to improve and folks can get real exercise outside. D'oh!
4. What's not in a name?
Investors buying into Bidz.com (Nasdaq: BIDZ ) better know what they're bidding on. The online jewelry auctioneer's latest quarter may look stunning at first, with a 38% surge in revenue. However, the gain was exclusively the result of non-recurring business-to-business transactions. Business at the company's namesake Bidz.com site actually declined during the quarter. Oh, and even with the incremental B2B boost, earnings still fell for the quarter.
To B2B or not to B2B? Indeed.
5. Seeing stars, not bucks
How sad is it when Starbucks (Nasdaq: SBUX ) posts adjusted earnings scenarios for fiscal 2009, and has to use comp declines of 2%, 5%, and 7% to ironically illustrate its earnings growth potential?
Does it make you scratch your head to find that after the company earned $0.71 a share in fiscal 2008, a 7% slip in same-store sales this new fiscal year will generate the same adjusted bottom-line result? It shouldn't. It's a testament to the company's attention to cost-cutting. However, why is a 7% loss the worst-case scenario? The economy isn't getting any better, everyone from McDonald's (NYSE: MCD ) to the convenience store around the corner is brewing premium coffee these days, and Starbucks is coming off an 8% decline at the store level during the fiscal year's fourth quarter.
Beating the dumb drum: