J.C. Penney sees hard year ahead

From Times Wire Services

J.C. Penney Co. reported that first-quarter profit was halved and predicted "difficult" conditions for the entire year as consumers pull back on spending.

Net income fell to $120 million, or 54 cents a share, from $238 million, or $1.04, a year earlier, the suburban Dallas-based retailer said.

Sales fell 5% to $4.13 billion from $4.35 billion.

Per-share profit was better than the 50 cents expected by analysts surveyed by Thomson Financial.

Shares rose $2.07 to $46.32.

During the first quarter, total sales decreased 5.1%. Same-store sales, a key indicator of a retailer's health, decreased 7.4% but were at the top end of the company's revised guidance for a high-single-digit decrease.

The company predicted a low-single-digit decrease in total sales for the second quarter, with earnings per share of about 38 cents.

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