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J.C. Penney Stages Strong Rally

Paul Ausick

Over the past 12 months, J.C. Penney Co. Inc. (JCP) has dropped more than 50% of its value. Since the beginning of the year, the stock is down just 10%, and in the past five days shares are up more than 5% -- and all of that rise came Monday morning.

The retail sector as a whole is up about 0.6% and J.C. Penney is among the leading gainers in the group. General retailer stocks dropped sharply on Friday before late afternoon trading pulled the sector back up to nearly flat for the day.

What we might be seeing is a delayed reaction among small investors to last Friday's buoyant report on consumer sentiment, now at a nine-month high. The late trades on Friday were almost certainly made by those algorithmic traders that dominate the closing minutes of trading every day.

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That late action was likely due to the subdued response of the retail sector to the news on consumer sentiment, and Monday's upbeat trading in retail stocks is making up for some lost time.

Even if all that is true, why would investors put their money into J.C. Penney, one of the most shorted stocks on the New York Stock Exchange? As of April 15, nearly 31% of the company's float was held short.

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For whatever reason, J.C. Penney stock was up more than 6% Monday morning, at $8.45 in a 52-week range of $4.90 to $19.63.

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