Few details from JC Penney on holiday sales spook market

Wed Jan 8, 2014 1:43pm EST
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By Phil Wahba

(Reuters) - Sometimes, no news is bad news.

J.C. Penney Co Inc (JCP.N: Quote) shares slid 8 percent after the department store chain said on Wednesday it was "pleased" with its holiday sales performance, but skimped on specifics.

Other retail stocks were down slightly, but the lack of detail in the Penney release fueled speculation that its turnaround is stalling.

It was the second most actively traded New York Stock Exchange-listed share.

The spare two-paragraph news release on Wednesday, which did not include a figure for its comparable sales growth for December, stood in stark contrast with earlier, detailed statements about its performance in October and November, when sales ended a nearly two-year streak of monthly declines.

In those, Penney gave specific figures and discussed its online business, gross margin and shopper traffic trends. Those positive results gave Penney shares a lift after they hit 32-year lows in October.

"If JCP had good things to say about business trends, the company would have shared more," Sterne Agee analyst Charles Grom wrote in a note. "The slope of the improvement at JCPenney needs to be much greater than it is currently tracking."

A Penney spokeswoman declined to comment beyond the news release.   Continued...

Customers ride the escalator at a J.C. Penney store in New York August 14, 2013. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid