Week's Winners and Losers: Apple Delights, Penney Disappoints

Inside A J.C. Penney Co. Store Ahead Of Earnings Figures
Ben Torres/Bloomberg via Getty Images

There were plenty of winners and losers this week, with higher price targets for the iEverything company and a struggling department store chain disappointing on the bottom line.

J.C. Penney (JCP) -- Loser

This was supposed to be a breakthrough holiday quarter for J.C. Penney. Analysts were holding out for a healthy profit of 11 cents a share after 13 straight quarters of adjusted losses. The department store chain broke even.

Breaking even is naturally better than red ink, but even in the middle of a turnaround, J.C. Penney finds a way to disappoint the market. Sales are improving, but the retailer still has a long way to go before it makes back the past few years of sliding sales.

Gap (GPS) -- Winner

One retailer that lived up to the hype this quarter was Gap. The iconic apparel chain countered J.C. Penney's profit miss by checking in with better-than-expected earnings. Gap also delighted investors by announcing a dividend hike and board authorization for $1 billion in share buybacks.

A big driver in Gap's success was an 11 percent surge in comparable-store sales at Old Navy. It wasn't all good news. The mall retailer's profit outlook for the new fiscal year was disappointing. However, the shortfall stems largely from currency fluctuations and temporary port delays. That's not so bad when one assesses the big picture.

American Express (AXP) -- Loser

The "Don't leave home without it" financial services giant is becoming easier to leave home without. Sources are telling Bloomberg that American Express is raising its financing rate on many of its cardholders.

American Express is reportedly telling a million of its customers that its annual rates on unpaid balances will climb by 2.5 percentage points to at least 12.99 percent. That's an odd move in this climate of low interest rates, and one that can backfire if customers grow rightfully incensed.

Apple (AAPL) -- Winner

The rich keep getting richer. Apple hit a new all-time high this week, building on its role as the world's most valuable tech company. This week if was Stifel Nicolaus analyst Aaron Rakers stoking the fire, raising his price target on the hot stock from $130 to $150.

Rakers feels that strength in China, the rookie success of Apple Pay, an expanding base of loyal users, and the potential of a lower overall corporate tax rate bode well for the tech bellwether.

Cable TV Providers -- Losers

It was another bad quarter for cable television providers. The last of the four major service providers posted quarterly results last week. All four of them wound up losing a lot of subscribers for all of 2014, though some started to stabilize during the quarter.

It's still ugly. Combine the four reports and cable TV lost 63,000 net video customers during the fourth quarter and 751,000 for the entire year. There are too many cheaper alternatives, especially since all four providers are charging more, on average, now than they were a year earlier.

Motley Fool contributor Rick Munarriz has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends American Express and Apple. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. Looking for a winner for your portfolio? Check out The Motley Fool's one great stock to buy for 2015 and beyond.