J.C. Penney Co. Inc.'s corporate credit rating was upgraded Wednesday two notches to B1 from B3 at Moody's Investors Service, which cited continued improvement in financial performance in the face of a challenging retail environment. The outlook on the rating, which is still four notches below investment grade, was changed to stable from positive. "While we acknowledge the company has had easier comparisons than most of its peers, its continued progress has resulted in significant deleveraging which is evidence of the traction of its initiatives and the recovery of market share," said Moody's analyst Christina Boni. The department store chain has reported losses in five of the last six quarters, and in 16 of 18 quarters, but has beat expectations that last six quarters, according to FactSet. The stock gained 0.3% in morning trade, while the SPDR S&P Retail ETF shed 0.6%. Year to date, J.P. Penney shares have soared 44%, while the retail ETF has inched up 0.2% and the S&P 500 has tacked on 5.5%.
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