PLANO, Texas (AP) _ Department store operator J.C. Penney said Friday its first-quarter earnings will be well below its previous forecast because of waning consumer demand. Its shares tumbled almost 12 percent and prices of other retailers also headed lower.

The disclosure punctuates worries that the slowing economy, higher gas prices and declining consumer confidence may be showing up at the retail cash register.

J.C. Penney said it now anticipates first-quarter net income of about 50 cents per share, down from its prior forecast for profit between 75 cents and 80 cents per share.

Analysts polled by Thomson Financial forecast earnings of 75 cents per share.

J.C. Penney Co. said weakening consumer confidence has hurt its results as well as lower-than-expected sales through Easter.

Shares of J.C. Penney dropped $4.76, or 11.8 percent, to $35.76 in morning trading. That is approaching its 52-week low of $33.27.

Prices of other retailers were also lower in premarket dealings. Shares of Target Corp. were off 78 cents, or 1.5 percent, at $50.20 and Sears Holding Corp. shares lost $2.51, or 2.4 percent, to $102.95.


Copyright 2008 The Associated Press.