Stock Market Today: Has J.C. Penney Finally Reached the Bottom?


Although we don't believe in timing the market or panicking over market movements, we do like to keep an eye on big changes -- just in case they're material to our investing thesis.

Index futures are pointing to a flat start for the stock market today, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average set to fall by a single point at the opening bell. While earnings season is about over, a few big-name retailers -- J.C. Penney , Lowe's , and Staples -- all stepped up to the plate this morning.

J.C. Penney store. Image source: J.C. Penney.

J.C. Penney reported a huge net loss of almost $500 million, or $1.94 a share. Adjusting for accounting charges, the red ink amounted to $1.81 per share in the third quarter, slightly worse than the Street was expecting.

Sales of $2.78 billion were also a bit lower than expected. Penney's comparable-store sales and gross margin both ticked higher, which means the company is entering the holiday season in the strongest position it's seen in a while. Still, for a retailer whose sales and profit are down 11% and 23%, respectively, so far this year, that's not saying much. Investors see a dim light at the end of the tunnel, though: J.C. Penney's stock is up 6.3% in premarket trading.

A day after larger rival Home Depot reported a blowout third quarter, Lowe's announced its own solid earnings results. The company saw comparable-store sales rise by 6.2%, which was strong but not as impressive as Home Depot's 8.2% figure. Lowe's profit jumped by 34% to $0.47 a share, just a penny below the Street's estimates. CEO Robert Niblock sounded an optimistic tone on the future, saying, "The home improvement industry is poised for persisting growth in the fourth quarter and further acceleration in 2014." However, Lowe's raised its full year earnings and sales outlook to just $2.15 a share, below the $2.19 that analysts were expecting. The stock is down 3% in premarket trading.

Finally, Staples this morning booked $0.42 a share in profit on $6.1 billion in sales during its third quarter. Both figures were below last year's results but about even with Wall Street's expectations. Staples has been busy closing stores to adjust to the weak demand for its core office products, and despite help from new growth categories like tablets and online shopping, comparable sales still fell by 3% in the U.S. The stock is up 1% in premarket trading.

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Fool contributor Demitrios Kalogeropoulos has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Home Depot. The Motley Fool owns shares of Staples. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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