Retail stocks rallied strongly Tuesday, inching up to an all-time high ahead of first-quarter earnings season, which gets underway tomorrow with a report from Macy’s Inc.


The S&P Retail Index, which started reaching new heights late last month, soared as high as 545.79 in afternoon trading and closed up 1.2 percent, or 6.22 points, at 545.59. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 0.6 percent, or 75.68 points, to 12,760.36 as investors took heart from Microsoft Corp.’s $8.5 billion deal to acquire Internet phone company Skype Global.


Retail stocks have been supported by stronger profits and hopes of a broader economic recovery, but the sector has also been dogged by inflation fears — related to both higher raw material and transportation costs in the supply chain and higher food and fuel prices for consumers. Gasoline prices are a least easing, with AAA pegging a gallon regular at $3.95, on average.


Analysts will get a chance to needle retail executives on their outlooks and how consumers might react to price increases during first-quarter conference calls. First up is Macy’s Inc., which Wall Street expects will nearly double profits to 17 cents a share from 9 cents a year ago.


Among Tuesday’s retail gainers were: Zale Corp., up 12.6 percent to $3.66; New York & Co. Inc., 7 percent to $5.99; Charming Shoppes Inc., 5.7 percent to $4.49; The Talbots Inc., 4.7 percent to $5.30; Urban Outfitters Inc., 4.7 percent to $32.90, and Macy’s Inc., 0.6 percent to $26.33.


Shares of Fossil Inc. shot up 12.7 percent to $105.97 after the firm topped first-quarter profit projections.

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