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Penney holiday sales rise; retailer has $2 billion in liquidity

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

(Reuters) - J.C. Penney Co Inc (JCP) on Tuesday said comparable sales rose 2 percent during the holiday quarter, reporting its first three-month period of growth in two years.

The struggling retailer, trying to win back shoppers after a disastrous attempt to go upmarket in 2012, also said it had total available liquidity of more than $2 billion at the end of the fiscal year. It provided the figure, in line with its earlier forecasts, as investors had been concerned that its deep discounting was sapping its cash.

Penney shares rose 4 percent to $5.91 in premarket trading after closing at their lowest levels in decades on Monday.

In 2013, Penney lined up a $2.25 billion financing package and in September sold nearly $800 million in new shares to further shore up its finances.

Penney's sales fell 25 percent in 2012 as former Chief Executive Officer Ron Johnson jettisoned discounts and began to change the company's stores into collections of mini boutiques to house trendy brands.

CEO Myron Ullman said in a statement that the department store operator's turnaround "is on track."

Comparable sales consist of sales at stores open at least a year as well as online sales.

Penney last month said it would close 33 of its 1,100 stores and cut 2,000 jobs.

(Reporting by Phil Wahba; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn)