NEW YORK — Retail stocks rushed with the bulls on Wall Street Thursday, rising 1.9 percent on an unexpectedly strong reading of private sector payrolls and a European plan to buy debt and lower interest rates for the region’s weaker countries.

This story first appeared in the September 7, 2012 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

The S&P Retail Index gained 12 points to 655.80 as the Dow Jones Industrial Average increased 1.9 percent, or 244.52 points, to 13,292.

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Farther uptown at The Plaza, retail honchos at The Goldman Sachs Nineteenth Annual Global Retailing Conference ranged from cautious to cautiously upbeat when asked some form of the question: What are your second-half expectations relative to first-half performance?

Here’s what they said and how their stock performed:

Terry J. Lundgren, chairman, president and chief executive officer, Macy’s Inc.:

“We’re looking at similar results to the front half….One of the missing pieces of our performance in the last two-and-a-half years has been women’s apparel. It’s just been bumping along…while we’ve been exploding in the accessories and beauty and parts of home and men’s businesses, but the women’s apparel business has been generally weak with us — and I think with other retailers — and so [we’re] finally starting to get a little traction in the women’s apparel business and the young businesses and so they can contribute. Obviously that’s new news to the overall [comparable-store] sales equation.”

Shares of Macy’s rose 1.2 percent to $40.35.

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Kevin Mansell, chairman, president and ceo, Kohl’s Corp.:
“Our big opportunity is still in the November, December period. I still expect the third quarter to be positive for sure and vastly improved over what we had in the first half, but I think you’re going to see the biggest acceleration in our sales when we get to November, December.”

Shares of Kohl’s gained 3.1 percent to $52.81.

Wesley Card, ceo, Jones Group Inc.:
“I’m not sure how all the discussions on TV over the last couple of weeks are going to affect the consumer, certainly we’re in an election period and gas prices are starting to rise but…my instinct is it’s just going to continue along sort of on the track that we’ve been on. I don’t see a major halt at any point, I don’t see a major spurt at any point.”

Jones’ stock rose 3.3 percent to $13.35.

Dennis Secor, chief financial officer, Guess Inc.:
“Cotton prices are going to abate for everybody in the back half of the year. We’re not quite sure how the competitors are going to respond to that, whether they’re going to pass it through to the customers. As we look at Europe, which [in the second quarter] performed better or in line with our expectations, our hope is that by the time we fully lap the downturn — which laps in the retail business in the third quarter and in the fourth quarter for the wholesale business — that could be the opportunity for us to actually unmask some of the growth that we’re showing in newer markets [but that’s] being masked by Italy and France.”

Shares of Guess increased 2.6 to $26.47.

Michael Barnes, ceo, Signet Jewelers Ltd.:
“The back half of the year is promising. We can’t control whether it’s going to happen in the macro environment, but we feel like we’re very well positioned to meet our objectives for the back half of the year. We have a lot of merchandise that we tested in the front half of the year that actually tested very, very well for us and we’re doing a lot of rollouts in the back half of the year into both Kay and Jared.”

Signet’s stock rose 2.3 percent to $47.17.

Neil Cole, ceo, Iconix Brand Group Inc.:
“It’s a long, slow recovery and it just continues to get better, it’s not getting better rapidly, but it is getting better and we see it continuing….I see the back half continuing to pick up but not — nothing dramatic as pretty much we’ve seen over the last year or two.”

Iconix’ shares advanced 1.7 percent to $18.96.