NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Shares of Liz Claiborne ( LIZ) fell late Thursday after the New York fashion apparel company slashed its profit outlook following a weak December for its Lucky Brand, Juicy Couture and Mexx Europe brands.

The company said it now projects the improvement in its adjusted operating income at $40 million to $50 million for the second half of fiscal 2010, which ended in December. Its previous view called for an improvement of $80 million.



The stock was last quoted at $5.70, down 17.4%, on volume of around 775,000. The shares gained more than 15% in 2010, and more than doubled after scraping a 52-week low of $3.90 on July 1.

Calling comparable sales and gross profit from the Juicy Couture, Lucky Brand and Mexx Europe brands "clearly disappointing," Liz Claiborne cited reduced traffic, fashion misses in certain product categories and increased promotional activity for the weakness.

The company said its direct-to-consumer comparable sales for December fell 5% for Juicy Couture, 13% for Lucky Brand and 16% for Mexx Europe, while its kate spade and Mexx Canada brands saw increases of 51% and 2% respectively for the month.

For the fourth quarter, Liz Claiborne now expects its adjusted operating loss to come in between flat with its year-ago equivalent loss of $15 million and an improvement of $10 million.

The current average estimate of analysts polled by Thomson Reuters is for a profit of 9 cents a share in the December period on revenue of $712.5 million. The majority of Wall Street is in wait-and-see mode on the shares as six of the analysts covering the stock have hold ratings. The sell-side group's 12-month median price target on the shares is $8.

-- Written by Michael Baron in New York.

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