Although we don't believe in timing the market or panicking over market movements, we do like to keep an eye on big changes -- just in case they're material to our investing thesis.

What: Shares of department store operator J.C. Penney (NYSE: JCP) climbed as much as 11% today on a few signs of improvement in August.

So what: Although the embattled retailer posted yet another brutal quarter -- a 22% sales plunge in the second quarter -- and even pulled its full-year guidance, confident words from CEO Ron Johnson that the restructuring remains on course is giving investors some hope. Johnson said the overhaul of its stores and a simplified pricing strategy have eased the decline in traffic in recent weeks, suggesting that the company's turnaround initiatives are at least starting to gain traction.

Now what: Although the company said it no longer expects to meet its prior profit forecast for fiscal 2012, Johnson said J.C. Penney remains well-positioned for next year. "While business continues to be softer than anticipated, we are conīŦdent the transformation of J.C. Penney is on track," said Johnson in a statement. "Our rock solid balance sheet will support the execution of our transformation and position us for growth beginning in 2013." Of course, when you couple J.C. Penney's clearly worrisome sales trends with the recent resurgence of close rival Macy's, I wouldn't exactly bet on it.

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