It seems innocent enough. Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT), the world's leading retailer, announces a massive $7 billion stock repurchase plan last night. It's the timing that's curious. With the company now just two days from posting its important same-store sales figures for December, is conspiracy afoot?

Cynics can argue that Wal-Mart's numbers will be bad and that this move is akin to a shopper asking for a credit line extension before a big purchase. Companies also time buyback announcements to offset unwelcome news as a show of support. But those worrywart ways don't exactly apply here. Over the holidays, Wal-Mart already announced that its December comps were trending towards the low range of its original 3% to 5% growth guidance. In other words, the market is already bracing for a lackluster showing.

Besides, the flipside to the pessimistic stance is that Wal-Mart is ramping up its buyback now because it feels that its stock is on the rise and that this is an ideal time to acquire shares at a lower price.

In fact, this is not an entirely new buyback. Over the summer, Wal-Mart announced a $5 billion repurchase program. It had only completed just over $3 billion in buybacks before announcing yesterday's plan that will replace the June program. In smorgasbord speak, Wal-Mart is going back for seconds before it's cleaned its first plate.

OK, it happens. From Gillette (NYSE:G) to Applebee's (NASDAQ:APPB), companies often tack on new repurchase plans before the older ones are completed. But we're talking about Wal-Mart now.

So, crack open that can of worms. Conspiracy theorists, go ahead and argue that the announcement was a ploy by Wal-Mart to throw the scent elsewhere. Optimists can argue that the more ambitious buyback is a net positive, no matter how it's spun.

You? No one is forcing you to take sides. It's just a buyback. The drama is strictly optional.

So what do you think of stock buybacks? Is Wal-Mart simply in a post-holiday buying mood? How do you think the December numbers will pan out? All this and more -- in the Wal-Mart discussion board. Only on