NEW YORK — Shares of J.C. Penney Corp. ran counter to trend on a generally up day in financial circles Monday after J.P. Morgan Securities downgraded the firm to “market performer” and raised questions about its 2002 prospects.

The Plano, Tex.-based firm’s stock traded down 36 cents, or 1.8 percent, to close at $19.59 on the New York Stock Exchange. Shares dipped as low as $18.83 in intraday trading. The day’s ending was closer to Penney’s 52-week low of $14.75 than its high-water mark of $29.50.

However, J.P. Morgan analyst Shari Schwartzman Eberts, in her research note accompanying the downgrade from “buy,” noted that “long-term value remains” at both the Penney’s and Eckerd divisions. But that value is “less likely to be realized this year as fundamental improvements become more difficult to demonstrate in the back half of the year,” Eberts cautioned.

Department store earnings before interest and taxes could be flat to down for the year, she said, pointing to $200 million in incremental expenses for the year, “which will be hard to offset with gross margin and sales gains once comparisons turn difficult in the back half of the year.”

The expenses will be driven by a decrease in noncash pension income and duplicate distribution costs as Penny’s moves to its new centralized system. Upgrading the supply chain, while necessary to align the firm’s distribution systems to its centralized buying approach, presents “significant execution risk associated with the switch,” said Eberts.

Also, capital expenditures are slated to increase by as much as 38.5 percent in 2002, coming in at $800 million to $900 million, said Eberts, who questioned “the aggressive boost to spending before operating trends have stabilized at either division.”

Elsewhere in the stock market, indices reflected hopes of economic recovery and some retailers were able to turn the day into new 52-week highs.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average amassed a robust gain of 217.96 points, or 2.1 percent, to end the day at 10,586.82 on top of Friday’s jump of 262.55 points, or 2.6 percent. The tech-soaked Nasdaq leaped 56.58 points, or 3.1 percent, to 1,859.32. Not missing the rush, Standard & Poor’s 500 was up 22.06 points, or 2 percent, to 1,153.84 and outpaced the S&P retail measure, which inched up 4.16 points, or 0.4 percent, to 960.04.

Retailers rising to new 52-week highs included: Chico’s FAS, up $1.50, or 4.3 percent, to close at $36.58; Nordstrom, 32 cents, or 1.2 percent, to $26.23; Mother’s Work, $1.16, or 8.5 percent, to $14.85, and Charming Shoppes, 6 cents, or 0.1 percent, to $8.05.

Also specialty retailers posting healthy gains were: American Eagle Outfitters, up $1.10, or 4.4 percent, to $26.30; Abercrombie & Fitch, $1.07, or 3.9 percent, to $28.52; Coldwater Creek, 77 cents, or 4.9 percent, to $16.48, and Wilsons Leather, 54 cents, or 4.9 percent, to $11.68.

Department store operators riding the wave upward included: Federated, up 69 cents, or 1.6 percent, to $44; May Co., 50 cents, or 1.4 percent, to $37.60; Kohl’s, $1.34, or 2 percent, to $69.44, and Saks, 28 cents, or 2.4 percent, to $12.13.

Shares of Target were up 25 cents to $43.40, while Wal-Mart’s stock, a Dow component, picked up 17 cents to close at $62.98.

Penney’s wasn’t the only loser for the day, though. Retailers whose stock price declined Monday included, Neiman Marcus, down 55 cents, or 1.6 percent, to $34.25; Bebe, 92 cents, or 3.8 percent, to $23.08; The Limited, 29 cents, or 1.5 percent, to $18.66; Intimate Brands, 22 cents, or 1.1 percent, to $19.95; Ross, down $1.69, or 4.6 percent, to $35.25, and Urban Outfitters, $1.34, or 5.7 percent, to $22.01.

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