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. If only Sam Walton was here
Talk about being a contrarian retailer. Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT) makes it through the darkest days of the recession without flinching, and now decides to stumble?

The world's largest retailer stunned investors by posting a 1.6% decline in stateside comps during the holiday quarter, not including fuel purchases. An optimist may see this as an encouraging sign. Maybe shoppers are trading up to pricier department stores. Maybe the online migration continues.

Then again, Wal-Mart has become a catchall discounter. Shoppers can't buy groceries at a mall-based department store. It's hard to picture Wal-Mart slipping without its smaller retailing peers following suit.  

2. Passing the buck    
They're pulling up white flags at Coinstar's (NASDAQ:CSTR) Redbox. The maker of automated kiosks that spit out $1 a night DVD rentals is agreeing to delay the release of Warner Bros. Home Entertainment titles for 28 days.

Redbox follows Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX) in this practice, and the movie studio is offering Redbox marked down copies of its flicks as part of the concession.

What a stupid move on Redbox's part. Netflix conceded because it was able to secure more titles for its streaming catalog. Netflix also claims that new releases account for roughly a third of its rentals, so it's not a colossal inconvenience.

None of this applies to Coinstar's kiosks. Redbox doesn't have an online streaming product. Redbox also thrives on the newness of fresh flicks. Movies like next month's release of The Blind Side will be available on video on demand and through full-priced rentals for four weeks before being stocked at Redbox.

Enjoy your second class citizenry, Redbox.

3. Retention: Plan B
Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) is buying reMail, the maker of a popular email search program for smartphones. There's nothing wrong with small acquisitions. However, reMail is the brainchild of a former engineering intern at Google. When you consider recent acquisitions of AppJet and Aardvark, the world's leading search engine has snapped up three companies headed up by former Googlers in as many months.

Bright minds get away from every company. You can't dock Google just because it has to pay up to win innovative hires back into its fold. The rub here is that Big G repriced its employee stock options a little over a year ago, when 85% of the options were underwater. Dramatically lowering the strike price -- in exchange for extending the vesting schedule -- was supposed to help with employee retention. Shareholders were the ones hit with the dilution.

How's that working out for you, Google?

4. Stupid analyst tricks
Shares of (NASDAQ:PCLN) hit an all-time high yesterday, after the travel portal posted better than expected results.

You won't find anything to complain about regarding priceline's performance. This "dumb" call goes out to the analysts following the dot-com darling. After all, priceline has now topped Wall Street expectations in each of the past 15 quarters.

We're not talking about narrowly besting the experts. Priceline is landing well ahead of the pros. Let's look at last year's quarterly performances.


EPS Estimate



Q1 2009




Q2 2009




Q3 2009




Q4 2009




Source: Yahoo! Finance.

Are you kidding me? Analyst guesstimates haven't even come within a dime of the actual per share profits. One would think that analysts would wake up, doubt their convictions, and inch forecasts higher until they finally get it right.

I love companies that blast through Mr. Market's expectations, but behind every perpetual winner is a head-scratching pool of loser analysts.

5. Buzz kill
AT&T (NYSE:T) was among those in attendance during this week's Mobile World Congress. The consortium of leading wireless carriers is proposing the creation of an "applications ecosystem" where programs can run across all smartphones. In short, the carriers want to make an App Store killer.

Uh, AT&T. You know that Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) can see you in Barcelona, right? You realize that a carrier consortium won't work, right? You realize that this is going to cost you the next time you want to discuss stateside exclusivity with Apple on the iPhone and iPad, right?

This is so wrong.

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

Wal-Mart is a Motley Fool Inside Value recommendation. Google is a Motley Fool Rule Breakers selection. Apple, Netflix, and are Motley Fool Stock Advisor picks. 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. Investors can learn plenty from both. He does not own shares in any of the stocks in this story. Rick 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.