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J.C. Penney Is No Bargain as Volume Soars and Shares Plunge

Stocks in this article: JCP SHLD

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- We're getting close to a good, old-fashioned 10% stock market correction. When a company like J.C. Penney (JCP) is the most actively traded stock on the New York Stock Exchange, you have to wonder if things will get worse before they get better.

Although I'm not a pessimist, the current state of most of the large global stock markets is looking partly cloudy with a 50% chance of correcting further. It's getting so bleak that Jim Cramer wrote an article titled The Uncertainty That Ails This Market.

He mentions, in part, retail sales, asking, "Who can trust these numbers? Who went out in this weather? At the same time, though, how do we know that people aren't permanently changing their habits right now in response to better ways to shop?"

Now let's turn things upside down for a moment. J.C. Penney is one of the oldest but most "broken" retailers in America today. Perhaps only Sears (SHLD) can be compared to this genre of Nearly Dead Ancient Retailers, the old-school, bricks-and-mortar retailers that may have already become obsolete.

Perhaps that is why we are experiencing on this third day of February a stock like Penney collapse down to a new 52-week low of $4.90 -- only to see the Associated Press come out with a story titled Sales Pick Up at J.C. Penney in Key Holiday Period. Talk about experiencing investor whiplash!

According to AP, the good news is Penney had its first quarterly increase in comparable-store sales in something like two years. The bad news is investors used the good news as an excuse to dump the stock.

When you think back to to the past year when Penney had quarters where same-store sales were down a gut-wrenching 32% from the comparable year-ago quarter, it's beginning to look more like the possible end of an iconic American business.

As the AP reminds us, "Same-store sales are considered a key measure of a retailer's heath because the metric strips away the volatility associated with stores that have recently opened or closed."

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