S&P affirms rating on Jones Group

NEW YORK (AP) -- Credit ratings agency Standard & Poor's on Friday affirmed its "BB-" corporate credit rating on clothing and accessories maker Jones Group Inc. an changed its outlook to "negative" from "stable."

The New York company, which makes shoes, clothing and accessories under brand names including Nine West, Anne Klein and Stuart Weitzman, is in the midst of a turnaround plan that includes closing stores and cutting jobs to improve profitability. It has also been focusing on higher-end brands like shoe makers Kurt Geiger and Stuart Weitzman to driver results.

Earlier this month, Jones Group said it returned to a profit in the first quarter as it worked on the turnaround plan. But spring sales disappointed and the company lowered its full-year sales outlook.

A "BB-" rating is a below-investment-grade, or "junk" bond rating that indicates the company faces ongoing uncertainties related to its business. A negative outlook means a downgrade may occur in the future.

The change in outlook is based on the company's "continued tepid operating performance," said S&P credit analyst Linda Phelps. If the company doesn't improve its credit metrics over the next year, a downgrade could occur, she added.

Shares fell a penny to end the week's trading at $14.71 The stock has traded between $8.85 and $15.25 in the past 52 weeks.

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