DALLAS – J.C. Penney Co. on Friday reported a 53 percent decline in third-quarter profit and earnings per share that slightly beat its lowered forecast.

Third-quarter net income was $124 million, or 55 cents a share, in the period ended Nov. 1, compared with net income of $261 million or $1.17 a share, a year ago. The Thomson Reuters analyst consensus forecast was 53 cents a share.

The U.S. housing slump shows up in J.C. Penney’s online results, where home sales are a larger part of the business than in its stores. Internet sales fell 0.8 percent in the third quarter vs. an 11.8 percent increase year ago.

Third-quarter total sales decreased 8.7 percent to $4.32 billion. Same-store sales fell 10.1 percent in the quarter.

Penney lowered its fourth-quarter earnings forecast to a range of 90 cents to $1.05, below the current analyst consensus estimate of $1.32 a share. Last year, it reported earnings of $1.93 in the fourth quarter.

In the fourth quarter, Penney said it expects total sales to decline 7 to 9 percent and same-store sales to be down in the 9 to 11 percent range.

On Thursday, Morgan Stanley downgraded J.C. Penney stock, citing “a combination of a dramatically weaker sales and margin outlook and higher pension headwinds.”

The prospect for more double-digit monthly sales declines into early next year and a pension expense of $180 million means earnings will be significantly lower than current forecasts, Morgan Stanley said.

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