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JC Penney shares bounce from low

NEW YORK (AP) -- Shares of J.C. Penney moved higher Friday even as the general market declined, a surprise to some market watchers given the retailer's financial problems of late.

Shares of J.C. Penney have dropped precipitously over the past 16 months. Since the end of 2011, shares had dropped 57 percent, sliding to a 12-year low of $14.10 on Thursday.

J.C. Penney has embarked on an ambitious revamping since CEO Ron Johnson took the helm in 2011 to attract younger, wealthier shoppers. The plan included getting rid of coupons and most of its sales events to focus on "everyday low prices," bringing in hipper brands such as Joe Fresh and Betsy Johnson and renovating outdated stores by installing mini-shops to replace undifferentiated racks of clothing.

But as changes went into effect, customers strayed from the chain and it hasn't been able to get enough new shoppers to replace them.

In its most recent fiscal year, the company's loss widened as revenue fell nearly 25 percent to $12.98 billion.

One theory for the stock's rise Friday was that short-sellers were buying back shares. Short-sellers are investors who borrow stock and sell it, betting that the stock's price will go down. If it does, the investor buys it back for less, booking a profit.

J.C. Penney is one of the most "heavily shorted" stocks out there, said Morningstar analyst Paul Swinand. Short-sellers may have wanted buy back shares while the broader stock market was down. The Standard & Poor's 500 index fell 0.8 percent in late afternoon trading Friday.

Another possibility might be that investors feel like J.C. Penney's results are turning a corner, with store revamps nearing completion, a legal battle with Martha Stewart winding down and the company rolling out more promotions.

"Investors may think a lot of headwinds are going away," Swinand said.

Shares Friday afternoon added 43 cents, or 2.8 percent, to $15.51. The stock ranged from $14.92 to $16.18 throughout the day.