By  on July 21, 2010

Retail stocks rallied 2 percent Tuesday as analysts fine-tuned their outlook on the sector and Washington lawmakers came closer to extending unemployment benefits.

The S&P Retail Index perked up 7.64 points to 399.86, building on Monday’s 0.4 percent rise — the first back-to-back gains in more than a month.

J. Crew Group Inc. jumped 9.4 percent to $35.50 and AnnTaylor Stores Corp. advanced 5.2 percent to $16.50 after Standard & Poor’s equity analyst Marie Driscoll boosted her ratings on the stocks to “buy” from “hold.”

Driscoll said J. Crew’s stock was undervalued and that the company would continue to take market share from higher-priced contemporary department store and designer brands. The analyst also said women have warmed to discretionary apparel shopping and that AnnTaylor would gain market share with fashions for work at lower price points.

Among the other major retailers seeing stock gains were J.C. Penney Co. Inc., ahead 9.2 percent to $23.96; Macy’s Inc., 5.1 percent to $18.42; Nordstrom Inc., 4.3 percent to $32.95; Urban Outfitters Inc., 4.4 percent to $33.64, and Wal-Mart Stores Inc., 2.8 percent to $50.88.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average inched up 0.7 percent, or 75.53 points, to 10,229.96.

Asian markets were mixed, with the Nikkei 225 down 1.2 percent to 9,300.46 in Tokyo as the Hang Seng Index climbed 0.9 percent to 20,264.59 in Hong Kong. European markets were off with the DAX down 0.7 percent to 5,967.49 in Frankfurt, the CAC 40 slipping 0.5 percent to 3,468.02 in Paris and the FTSE 100 registering a 0.2 percent decline to 5,139.46 in London.

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