J.C. Penney Co Inc posted a smaller-than-expected net loss on Friday as it reined in costs, but the retailer indicated full-year profit might miss expectations, sending its shares down nearly 5 percent.

Penney, which is trying to entice shoppers with its value message and trendy merchandise, raised its fiscal-year forecast for earnings and sales at stores open at least a year. But the department store operator still expects a same-store sales decline and lower profit than last year as consumers pick and choose what they buy in the recession.

Penney said it expected to earn 75 cents to 90 cents per share this year, up from a prior forecast of 50 cents to 65 cents, citing second-quarter results and anticipated improvements in gross margin.

Analysts expected earnings of 88 cents per share.

The company expects this year's sales to fall 5.5 percent to 6.0 percent, with same-store sales down 7 percent to 7.5 percent. It had previously forecast a same-store sales drop of about 9 percent.

The guidance for the full year looks fairly low, said Robert W. Baird analyst Erika Maschmeyer. The Street already expects them to be conservative. (So) if they don't beat, they are in trouble.

Penney reported a net loss of $1 million, or nil per share, for the second quarter ended August 1, compared with a year-earlier profit of $117 million, or 52 cents per share.

Analysts on average had expected a loss of 1 cent per share, according to Reuters Estimates.

Earlier in August, the company narrowed its quarterly loss estimate to 1 cent per share from a range of 8 cents to 12 cents.

Sales fell 7.9 percent to $3.94 billion, as previously reported, while same-sales declined 9.5 percent.


Penney, which has fashioned itself as a value destination in the downturn, said it had sold more merchandise at regular promotional prices and less at clearance prices.

Shoes and women's clothing were the strongest sellers, while children's apparel sales were weakest.

The results came two days after rival Macy's Inc posted a better-than-expected profit and raised its full-year outlook, but mixed results from two of its suppliers showed that times remain tough in the retail sector.

Penney opened a new store in Manhattan last month, taking direct aim at the flagship Macy's store nearby.

For the current third quarter, Penney expects results to range from a loss of 5 cents per share to a profit of 5 cents. Analysts expected earnings of 14 cents.

Penney said sales should fall 3 percent to 5 percent in the current quarter, with same-store sales down 5 percent to 7 percent.

Shares of Penney were down 4.9 percent at $31.72 on the New York Stock Exchange.

(Reporting by Jessica Wohl in Chicago and Aarthi Sivaraman in Seattle; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn)