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J.C. Penney Profits Fall 52%J.C. Penney (JCP) - Get J. C. Penney Company, Inc. Report just reported that its third-quarter profit fell 52% to $124 million, or 56 cents per share, from $261 million, or $1.17 per share, last year.

The company cited lower consumer spending and declining mall traffic for the profit drop. Coupled with a shaky job market and prolonged housing slump, revenue drifted 9% lower to $4.32 billion from $4.73 billion last year.

As for next quarter, the company expects earnings per share to come in a range of 90 cents to $1.05, below the $1.32 consensus estimates.

We removed J.C. Penney from our "Recommended" list Sept.22, when shares were trading at $38.11. The company has a 4.15% dividend yield, based on Thursday night's closing stock price of $19.28. The retail sell-off may be creating short-term opportunities for investors who are nimble enough to move in and out of stocks quickly.

J.C. Penney is not recommended at this time, holding a Rating of 3.2 out of 5 stars.

Microsoft to Offer 0% Financing on Business Software

Microsoft Corporation

(MSFT) - Get Microsoft Corporation Report

announced it would begin to offer

0% financing

options to small- and medium-size American companies for some of its business software.

Few businesses may actually qualify for the offer, however, because of strict lending guidelines, according to a Microsoft spokeswoman. Microsoft will rely on outside banks to review and underwrite the loans.

Microsoft is assuming very little, if any, risk with move, and the low-interest rate loans could encourage some businesses to buy software that they otherwise could not afford.

Microsoft Corp. is not recommended at this time, holding a Rating of 3.4 out of 5 stars.

Citi Announces Job Cuts, Credit-Card Rate Increases, Etc., Etc.


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TheStreet Recommends

(C) - Get Citigroup Inc. Report

is out with plenty of market-moving headlines today.

The company announced it will

cut 10,000 jobs

worldwide, and officials have been ordered to slash their budgets for employee compensation by at least 25%. The company intends to cut its global workforce from 350,000 to 290,000 in the next 12 months.

Also, the company is notifying some of its credit-card customers that their interest rates are being raised by an average of three percentage points. The company is hoping that higher interest rate would make the difficult-to-sell loans more attractive to secondary market buyers.

Furthermore, Citigroup CEO Vikram Pandit just spent $6.9 million on acquiring 750,000 shares of Citigroup stock. The CEO has been under pressure to turn the company around, but so far his efforts haven't impressed Wall Street. Maybe the insider buys will give him the incentive. We'll have to wait and see.

The heat is clearly on Citigroup management to be as aggressive as possible to turn the company's fortunes around. Unfortunately, credit card increases will not be any help to struggling consumers who are trying to manage an already high debt load. For investors, the company still needs to show Wall Street that its plan is going to work. We'd remain cautious with the shares.

Citigroup is not recommended at this time, holding a Rating of 2.8 out of 5 stars.

Agilent Expects Flat Earnings Per Share in 2009

Agilent Technologies

(A) - Get Agilent Technologies Inc. Report

just reported that its fourth-quarter profits rose 28% to $231 million, or 64 cents per share, compared with $180 million, or 46 cents per share, in the year-ago quarter.

The company's revenue missed consensus expectations on disappointing performance in the electronic measurement markets. Management said the electronic measurement markets weakened throughout the quarter, with orders down 10% from one year ago and revenues off 3%. Semiconductor-related markets remained particularly weak. Bio-analytical markets were more robust, with orders up 8% and revenue up 10%, and were particularly strong in Asia.

The company is expecting 2009 earnings per share to be flat with this past year's results. That would mean the company is looking for EPS to be at or around $1.87. The consensus expectation was for EPS of $2.12.

Note: Agilent Technologies does not currently pay a dividend.

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At the time of publication, the author had no positions in stocks mentioned, although positions may change at any time.

Tom Reese and Paul Rubillo are senior editors of Visit for more dividend stock ratings, picks, news, and analysis for long-term and income-seeking investors.