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JC Penney (JCP) Sees Moderate Fourth Quarter Profit

Plano, Texas based JC Penney (JCP) announced a fourth quarter profit drop of 10% from the previous year’s fourth quarter, largely based on lower spending from its predominantly middle-class customer base. In addition to the fourth quarter loss, the company, like many retailers, said it’s cautious about earnings possibilities for 2008.

During its late ending fiscal fourth quarter (February 2), the company says it netted $1.93 per share or $430 million in net income. This was slightly better than the company’s lowered estimate, and soundly bested analyst estimates of $1.77 per share. Last year’s fourth quarter earnings were $477 million or $2.09 per share. The numbers were somewhat misleading as the company had an extra week during its fourth quarter last year.

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JC Penney actually held up reasonably well, considering the economic slump that has affected many retailers. The challenge for a value-oriented retailer like JC Penney is that its middle class customers tend to be more cautious with discretionary spending during uncertain economic times. While consumers still need many of the products the company sells for day-to-day work and living needs, the desire to purchase more than is necessary erodes when consumer confidence is shaky.

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Sales were actually down 4% on the quarter, but the company managed to control costs effectively. For the current quarter, the company forecast 75 to 80 cents per share earnings, while analysts say 80 cents is likely. Stock investing markets hope the company can top estimates again.

For its fiscal 2008 year, the company expects to net $3.75 to $4.00 per share. Analysts are a little more hopeful, anticipating $4.02 per share. Much of the company’s success during 2008 is going to be depending on economic growth and a rise in consumer spending. The company hopes its ability to control costs and inventory, as well as the launch of exciting new product lines will give the stock help.

The company’s shares were virtually flat during stock trading following the announcement. Investors seemed uncertain whether to add the company to their personal stock portfolio given the uncertain outlook.

Covered calls are likely to be a popular stock trading moving for investors currently long on the stock, given the uncertain near-term. JC Penney has traded with extreme volatility over the last 52 weeks making it risky addition to a trading portfolio. The stock has seen a low of $33.27 and a high of $87.18 during the one year period. It is currently settled under $50, waiting for a direction.

With a $.80 annual dividend makes it a little bit better fit for medium and long-term stock market portfolios. Again, with the long-term dividend benefit, aggressive investors can maintain their long investments and go for short-term profits through covered calls, which is a neutral strategy for the short-term.

Retail companies like JC Penney are hoping the US economy can rebound strongly. With tax rebates going in the mail in May and June and money freed up by loan rate cuts, consumers can help decide the company’s future.

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[tags] Plano, Texas, US, May, June, JCP, Penney (J.C.) Co. Inc., covered call strategies, investing in stock options, personal stock portfolio, poweroptions, stock help, stock investing, stock market help, stock market investment strategies, stock options, stock trading [/tags]

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