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The Five Dumbest Things on Wall Street This Week

1. Under the Hood

General Motors (GM) rolled out the hard sell this week.

The automaker met Tuesday with shareholders at its annual meeting, where CEO Rick Wagoner offered his latest turnaround update. "Our goal is to structure GM for sustained profitability and growth," Wagoner explains.

If that sounds like a laudable project, you'll surely admire GM's progress. Why, take a look at the first quarter. "We recorded our first profitable quarter in a year and a half," Wagoner says, as revenue hit a record $52 billion. "These were important milestones in our turnaround plan."

Pointing out milestones is hardly a novelty for Wagoner. Even so, the latest achievements stand out -- because when it was first reported, the first quarter was far from profitable.

Back in April, GM reported a preliminary adjusted first-quarter loss of $529 million. The GM North America business lost $946 million, and the worldwide auto business lost $721 million.

That all changed in May, though, after GM talked with regulators about a big health care settlement with its biggest union.

Revising its health care accounting allowed GM to cut its North America loss in half and its overall auto-unit loss by two-thirds. And instead of a sixth straight quarterly loss, GM ended up showing a first-quarter profit of $445 million.

While the change surely was proper, The Wall Street Journal reports that one analyst derided it as mere "accounting mechanics."

That doesn't sound like the basis for sustained profitability.

Dumb-o-Meter score: 90. "We have absolute clarity about the road ahead," Wagoner told shareholders Tuesday of planned changes in Detroit, "and I have no doubt that we will succeed." Speak for yourself.

To view Colin Barr's video take on GM's entry in Five Dumbest this week, click here.

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