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J.C. Penney drops on lackluster results

J.C. Penney shares tumbled to an all-time low after the retailer posted quarterly sales results that rose less than analysts estimated for the key holiday period.

Sales at locations open at least a year rose 2 percent in the fiscal fourth quarter, which ran through January, the Plano, Texas, company said Tuesday. Analysts expected a 4.1 percent gain. Same-store sales climbed 3.1 percent in the nine weeks through November and December, J.C. Penney said.

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But the news wasn’t enough to impress Wall Street. After rising briefly, shares fell 60 cents — more than 10 percent — to close at $5.08.

Chief executive Mike Ullman has halted the drop in J.C. Penney’s sales by reviving popular private-label brands and bringing back sales events that former CEO Ron Johnson had done away with. The effort resulted in the first same-store sales gain since the quarter ended in July 2011. Even so, the modest increase highlights the hard work that remains, said Mary Ross Gilbert, an analyst at Imperial Capital LLC in Los Angeles.

‘‘For comparable sales to be up 2 percent just underscores how challenged J.C. Penney is,’’ Ross Gilbert, who has the equivalent of a sell rating on the shares, said in a telephone interview. ‘‘In this competitive environment, it shows how tough it is to regain lost share.’’

J.C. Penney’s same-store sales plunged 32 percent in the fourth quarter a year earlier.

J.C. Penney said it ended the quarter with more than $2 billion in liquidity, meeting its forecast. It plans to announce its full fourth-quarter results Feb. 26.

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