Sears shares jump on rumors

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Sears spiked 9 percent in Tuesday trading as investors speculated that the company may go private.

The company's stock price has fallen sharply over the past year but rose $2.45, more than 7 percent, to $36.01 in afternoon trading.

Sears Holdings, which operates the Sears department stores and Kmart discount chain, has struggled financially for some time.

It announced in late December that it was closing between 100 and 120 of its stores to raise cash after a terrible holiday shopping season. And in the latest of several public blows to its image, CIT Group Inc. last week said it would stop financing loans to suppliers waiting to be paid by Sears.

Since then, rumors have been building that the company's hands-on chairman, Eddie Lampert, may take the company private in a final attempt to turn the business around. The strategy could make it easier to draw investors, lure the expertise of private equity firms and provide the freedom to retool away from public scrutiny.

Lampert's decision last week to buy up roughly $159 million in Sears stock over several days helped further that speculation.

According to SEC filings Wednesday, Lampert's ESL Investments hedge-fund firm sold about 4.46 million Sears shares to Lampert in private stock sales. Lampert also bought additional Sears stock on the open market for roughly $12 million. He holds about 59 percent of the company's shares either directly or through his related entities.

The company's shares often vacillate based on rumors of Lampert's intentions.

Shares rose $2.94 to $36.50.

Sears Holdings Corp., which is based in Hoffman Estates, Ill., has seen its stock trade between $28.89 and $94.79 in the past 52 weeks.