Retail stocks jumped today 1.4 percent, with J.C. Penney Co. leading the sector higher.

The S&P 500 Retailing Industry Group rose 9.25 points to 675.53, outpacing the market which, according to the Dow Jones Industrial Average, rose 0.8 percent, or 106.98 points, to 12,985.11.

Penney’s was the retail index’s strongest gainer, rising 4.6 percent to $18.32. The stock has been volatile lately and well below its 52-week high of $43.18. Penney’s is in the midst of a reinvention and has been dogged by rumors of a possible takeover lately. Many investors are betting the stock will fall and about 39.8 percent of the shares outstanding are held short.

However, there have been patches of good news for Penney’s and its chief executive officer, Ron Johnson. Emanuel Chirico, chairman and ceo of PVH Corp., told investors today that the Izod shops in Penney’s performed “very well” over the last three months.  

Joining Penney’s in the rally were Movado Group Inc., which rose 10.2 percent to $35.50 after the watchmaker boost its profit outlook and unveiled a special dividend; Express Inc., 8.9 percent to $14.15; Ann Inc., 8.2 percent to $35.10, and PVH, 6.6 percent to $116.46.

Wall Street in general was buoyed by comments from President Barack Obama, who is working with Capitol Hill lawmakers to avert the so-called fiscal cliff —a combination of automatic tax increases and spending cuts set to kick in at the end of the year.

Obama said he hoped to have a fiscal deal signed over the next few weeks.

“Our ultimate goal is an agreement that gets our long-term deficit under control in a way that is fair and balanced,” he said, adding that Democrats and Republicans can agree on a “framework” in the coming weeks.

“My hope is to get this done before Christmas…I’ll sign this bill as soon as Congress sends it my way. I’ve got a pen. I’m ready to sign it,” he said.

Europe’s stock markets edged up after Obama spoke.

The CAC 40 in Paris gained 0.4 percent to 3,515.19, followed by the DAX in Frankfurt, which advanced 0.2 percent to 7,343.41, and the FTSE 100 in London, which rose 0.1 percent to 5,803.28.

The FTSE MIB in Milan was the only market that lost ground, falling 0.2 percent to 15,453.43.
The day’s biggest gainers included Burberry Group, up 2.7 percent to 12.74 pounds; French Connection, 11.34 percent to 0.27 pounds; Mulberry Group, 2.1 percent to 10.87 pounds, and Tod’s, 1.6 percent to 91.00 euros.

Among the stocks that lost ground were, down 2 percent to 11.54 euros; Metro AG, 3.7 percent to 21.32 euros, and, 1.2 percent to 23.94 pounds.

In Toronto, Hudson’s Bay Co.’s stock slipped 0.4 percent to 16.86 Canadian dollars. The firm debuted on the Toronto Stock Exchange at $16.80 Monday.

The euro traded at $1.30 versus the dollar, while the pound traded at $1.60 and the Canadian dollar traded at 98 cents.

In Shanghai, the SSE Composite Index slipped 0.9 percent to 1,973.52 — the market’s worse close since January 2009. In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng Index fell 0.6 percent to 21,708.98.