For the fourth time in three months,

J.C Penney

(JCP) - Get Report

on Thursday warned investors that third-quarter earnings would fall short of Wall Street expectations, adding that total October sales were down 1.7% from the same period a year ago.

In contrast,

Talbots

(TLB)

reported a 21% increase in October sales, and raised its third-quarter estimates again, to $1.06 to $1.08 per share. That's nearly double earnings of 63 cents per share reported for the same year-ago period. It also tops the latest consensus estimate among analysts of earnings of $1.02 per share in the third quarter of 2000, according to a survey by

First Call/Thomson Financial.

J.C. Penney, on the other hand, said it now estimates its losses during the quarter to be between 10 to 15 cents per share. The retailer is scheduled to report its earnings on Nov. 14 for the third quarter, which ended in October. Analysts had initially expected the Plano, Texas-based company to report earnings of 31 cents per share, according to First Call/Thomson Financial. But last month, J.C. Penney

warned that it might lose money in the third quarter.

Since then, the consensus among the dozen analysts surveyed by First Call/ Thomson Financial has dropped to a forecast of a loss of 5 cents per share -- still better than the losses J.C. Penney warned of on Thursday.

J.C. Penney also reported that October sales were lower than expected, with sluggish department store more than offsetting an 8.4% gain in sales at its

Eckerd

drugstore chain. Department store sales fell to about $1.08 billion, down 3.2% from $1.11 billion in October 1999. Catalog sales declined 12%, to $315 million, from $358 million a year ago.

Talbots said its total sales jumped to $158.5 million in October, up 21% from $130.7 million in the same period a year earlier. Same-store sales were up 19% for the month.

In early October, Talbots said it expected third-quarter earnings to range between $1.00 and $1.02 a share. The consensus at that time, according to First Call/Thomson Financial, was for the company to earn 85 cents a share. The Hingham, Mass.-based retailer is scheduled to release quarterly earnings on Nov.14.

Early in Thursday's session, shares of J.C. Penney were flat at $11.25. Shares of Talbots were up $5.56, or 7%, to a 52-week high of $84.88.