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J.C. Penney Falls Despite Posting Narrower Than Expected Q2 Loss

Stocks in this article: JPM M JWN

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Shares of retailer J.C. Penney  (JCP) are lower this morning despite posting a narrower than expected loss for the second quarter.

WHAT'S NEW: J.C. Penney's Q2 adjusted loss per share was (75c) per share, which was better than analysts' consensus forecast for a (93c) loss. The company's Q2 revenue came in at $2.8B, which narrowly beat analysts' consensus of $2.79B. Same store sales for the quarter increased 6% and online sales were up 16.7% compared to the same period last year. Chief Executive Myron Ullman said that the company's turnaround initiatives continued to produce improved financial results.

WHAT'S NOTABLE: Looking ahead, J.C. Penney forecast third quarter SSS to be up mid-single digits, while Q3 gross margins are expected to fall in line with Q2. SG&A expenses are anticipated to be slightly above last year's levels. For fiscal year 2014, the company expects SSS to be up mid-single digits, while gross margin is seen to improve significantly compared to last year. The retailer is expecting profitable sales this back-to-school season.

ANALYST REACTION: Maxim analyst Rick Snyder said that while J.C. Penney had a quarter which surpassed expectations, he still feels that difficult comps lie ahead. Snyder said that even though the company guided free cash flow to be positive, the projection is a one-time inflow and is not likely to be repeated in the coming years. He is modeling free cash flow to be up only modestly even past the end of the year. The firm maintains a Hold rating on the stock. Piper Jaffray analyst Neely Tamminga said that a company turnaround is "very much underway" and that it is poised to regain $2B-$3B of its $6B revenue loss after a management shift. He continues to feel that the retailer is positioned to improve cash flow, sales and margins over time. Tamminga believes that the retailers' positive outlook for Q3 comps indicate an optimistic outlook for back-to-school season. The firm keeps an Overweight rating on the shares with a price target of $12. Wells Fargo analyst Paul Lejuez said that even though gross margin comps proved notably and gross profit dollars increased by 25%, he feels that there isn't any reason why anyone should "get too excited" about J.C. Penney since they lost 73c per share excluding the gain on sale of land. He maintains his opinion that the current valuation is stretched and keeps an Underperform rating on the company's shares with a $5-$6 price target.

PRICE ACTION: In morning trading, J.C. Penney fell 26c, or 2.67%, to $9.48, reversing earlier gains. The stock has lost approximately 32% over the past twelve months.

OTHERS TO WATCH: J.C. Penney peer Macy's (M), which reported its earnings earlier this week, is down almost 1% this morning, while Nordstrom  (JWN), which reported in-line results yesterday, is down almost 4%. Kohl’s (KSS) is down 0.7%.

Reporting by Gina Gioldassis and Laurie Pasternack Chan.

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