Stupidity is contagious. It gets us all from time to time. Even respectable companies can catch it. As I do every week, let's take a look at five dumb financial events this week that may make your head spin.

1. Crashing the iPad
There was so much hype leading up to Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPad debut on Wednesday that it was bound to fall short of the dreamy expectations.

I wasn't surprised to see the stock sell off shortly after the introduction. It managed to close marginally higher on the day, only to surrender all of its gains -- and then some -- yesterday.

There is no doubt that millions of early adopters will hop on the iPad after its springtime release. However, many of the media reports following the announcement seem to focus more on its shortcomings than what it will actually be able to do.

  • Unlike the Apple iPhone and MacBook devices, there is no camera on this thing. I've seen $250 tablets with cameras!
  • Like the iPhone, it doesn't multitask.
  • The demo proved embarrassing when Steve Jobs surfed to a site with embedded Flash video, because the iPad also doesn't support Flash. (It streams YouTube through a workaround.) If this thing is going to be a living-room surfing gadget, it needs to spit out all online video. What good is the iPad if it doesn't do Hulu or FarmVille?

Then we get to the name. The iPad name was floating around along with the more suitable iSlate and iTablet, but it seemed as if it was just a red herring. Why would Apple confuse holiday shoppers with a "can I buy a vowel" kissing cousin to its iconic iPod? Even MADtv ripped into the name -- three years ago!

The iPad will eventually overcome its shortcomings with annual updates. That's the Apple way. However, I don't know whether it will ever overcome its ridiculous name.

2. The sum of its Bartz    
Yahoo! (NASDAQ:YHOO) CEO Carol Bartz has to win the door prize for this week's dumbest CEO quote.

"The fourth quarter marked a strong finish to 2009," she noted during the company's quarterly earnings release.

I'm shocked at what passes for "strong" these days. Yahoo!'s revenue before traffic-acquisition costs fell 8%, and non-GAAP net income declined even more. Even if one argues that Bartz is referring to sequential improvement at Yahoo!, the guidance for the current quarter implies a sequential decline.

A cup of hot water may be "strong" coffee under that scenario.

3. And if that Sundance don't shine ...
It's been exactly a week since Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) You Tube began selling rentals of full-length films on its website for $3.99 apiece.

It hasn't exactly been a hot offering. On Monday, I pointed out that the five Sundance films that became initially available served up only 1,422 total views during the service's opening weekend.

I checked again this morning, and the apathy is even worse.



The Cove


One Too Many Mornings




Children of Invention


Bass Ackwards


Yikes! If moving only 1,422 rentals during the first three days was disappointing, a collective 1,645 for the first week, or just 223 more over the past four days, is truly weak.

Or, as Bartz might put it, strong.

4. The E*TRADE Baby hits the terrible threes
It could have been worse for E*TRADE (NASDAQ:ETFC). The discount broker with the edgy marketing campaign posted a narrower loss in its latest quarter. Larger rivals Charles Schwab (NASDAQ:SCHW) and TD AMERITRADE (NASDAQ:AMTD) delivered year-over-year declines in profitability a week earlier.

However, despite the E*TRADE Baby glow, the broker closed out the fourth quarter with 17,000 fewer brokerage accounts than it started with. It had been consistently adding net new brokerage accounts E*TRADE until this past quarter's stumble. Daily average revenue trades also slipped, but that's not as problematic as having account cancellations outnumber new applicants.

5. Up in smoke
Tobacco giant Altria (NYSE:MO) bucked yesterday's market slide, when it managed to close the day marginally positive after checking in with a 7% uptick in year-over-year profitability for its latest quarter.

I'm usually all for growers, but Altria's growth is really a cost-cutting facade. The Marlboro maker is more than halfway through its five-year plan to slash $1.5 billion in costs. That's commendable, but where will it go from there? Tobacco continues to be a dying business, weighed down by hefty excise taxes and broader awareness of its health risks. Earnings ticked higher, but cigarette sales volume was off by a sharp 11.4%

That chunky 6.8% yield is keeping income investors from going cold turkey on the stock, but payouts are only as reliable as a company's future earnings potential. Between the slipping of tobacco volume and the obvious legal liabilities, bottom-line improvement is the cigarette butt of a joke.

Which of these five moves do you think is the dumbest? Share your thoughts in the comments box below.

Google is a Motley Fool Rule Breakers recommendation. Apple and Charles Schwab are Motley Fool Stock Advisor selections. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. That certainly wouldn't be a dumb move.

Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz is a fan of dumb and smart business moves alike, since investors can learn plenty from both. He owns no shares in any of the stocks in this story and is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. The Fool has a disclosure policy.