J.C. Penney beat analyst forecasts in its latest quarter as gross margins continued to improve. Investors wanted to see whether the company won sales without profit-eroding discounts. The mid-sized retailer needed strong sales in April to beat analysts’ estimates, and that's what happened. J.C. Penney reported revenues of $2.8 billion along with a same store sales increase of 6.2 percent, exceeding expectations. This is the second consecutive quarter of growth. Gross margins improved by 230 basis points. J.C. Penney's stock is up over 18 percent after hours.

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