NEW YORK — Recognizing improvement in J.C. Penney Co. Inc.’s operations, Moody’s Investor Service upped its outlook on the firm’s senior implied rating to stable from negative.

The debt rating agency, however, is keeping the outlook on Penney’s senior unsecured debt at negative, pending an assessment of the retailer’s revolving credit facility to be renewed later this year.

Moody’s confirmed the Penney’s senior implied rating of Ba2, two notches below investment grade.

While it’s not common for a company to carry varying debt outlooks, Philip Emma, credit analyst at Moody’s, said “it’s also not unknown.”

The senior implied is “the fundamental credit rating for a noninvestment grade company,” said Emma. Its change in outlook “reflects management’s success in stemming the multiyear deterioration in operating performance and in achieving significant improvement in profitability in 2001,” he said.

“We certainly recognize that they’ve achieved their initial objectives and gotten the low-hanging fruit, but the real fix will come when they tackle more complicated objectives that lead to permanent improvement,”said Emma.

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