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PLANO, Texas (AP) J.C. Penney is reporting a 3.1 percent rise in comparable-store sales during the critical nine-week holiday period.

Company shares jumped 4 percent in premarket trading.

Fourth-quarter sales at stores open at least a year climbed about 2 percent, excluding the 53rd week of 2012.

It was the first time since the second quarter of 2011 that the struggling department store has posted such a large increase.

Same-store sales are a key gauge of a retailer's health because it excludes the volatility associated with stores recently opened or closed.

J.C. Penney Co., based in Plano, Texas, ended 2013 with more than $2 billion in total available liquidity. Industry watchers are paying close attention to that number as the retailer tries to turn itself around.