J.C. Penney Shares Hammered

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Shares of J.C. Penney Co. Inc. (NYSE: JCP) hit a year-to-date low, down nearly 45%, in early February. The stock price started to climb, took another dive late in February, and has bounced back to down just 16% as of Thursday night’s close. But shares tanked early Friday morning, down 10% on no apparent news.

J.C. Penney posted a small profit in the quarter ended in January, and the stock pushed on toward $9 a share where it has hovered for more than a month. Short interest in the stock had dropped from 119.92 million shares in mid-March to 110.16 by the end of the month, the lowest total since January.

Investors must be grappling with whether the stock’s inability to break through the $9 a share ceiling means that the upside is in the rear-view mirror. The consensus price target is about $7.50 and even an upgrade from an analyst Thursday couldn’t push the share price higher.

Volume as of late morning was more than 22 million shares, compared with the daily average of about 27 million shares traded. Are the shorts taking their medicine and getting out, or are the longs bailing? We’d have to speculate that it is the latter.

Shares are trading down about 8.7% shortly before noon, at $7.78 in a 52-week range of $4.90 to $19.63.

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