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J.C. Penney


reported a narrower-than-expected fourth-quarter loss but revenue slid slightly from their year ago levels as sales at its department stores declined.

The Plano, Texas-based department-store retailer posted a fourth-quarter loss of 3 cents a share, before the effects of non-comparable items, compared with a profit of 45 cents a share a year ago. According to

First Call/Thomson Financial

, 10 analysts expected a loss of 5 cents a share for the quarter. Including a pre-tax charge, the company had a net loss of $284 million, or $1.11 a share.

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Sales for the quarter were $9.75 billion, down from $9.83 billion last year.

Looking ahead, the company said it expects 2001 earnings, including the savings from its restructuring program, to be 70 cents to 80 cents a share, "despite a slowing economic environment." The company recently

closed 44 under-performing stores.

"Although it will be two to five years before we fully restore the profitability of our business to competitive levels, I am confident that incremental progress will continue to be made over the next several years," said CEO Allen Questrom.

Shares of J.C. Penney closed at $13.65 in Wednesday activity on the

New York Stock Exchange

. They have a 52-week range of $8.63 and $19.69.