U.S. stocks advanced on Tuesday, boosted by strength in retail and tech stocks, but volume remained light as investors awaited a clearer picture of corporate earnings and the labor market.

The S&P 500 index has risen 4.7 percent in the first quarter. The benchmark index was on track for its seventh positive quarter in the last eight.

Technology and retail stocks were among the better- performing sectors on Tuesday, as investors found value in stocks that fell in the pullback following the earthquake. The S&P Information Technology index <.GSPT> had lost as much as 4 percent in the aftermath of the disaster in Japan, while the S&P Retail index <.RLX> dropped as much as 2.1 percent.

The S&P Information Technology Index was up 0.3 percent on Tuesday and the S&P Retail Index was up 1.1 percent.

Volume remained tepid ahead of some key data on the labor front, including the ADP private-sector employment report on Wednesday and the U.S. government's key non-farm payrolls report on Friday.

Investors may also have been reluctant to make big bets in equities as companies begin to announce earnings guidance.

We've got a big economic week. You are also in pre-announcement season here. Interestingly, we haven't seen many so far, but it's a little early, said Tim Ghriskey, chief investment officer of Solaris Asset Management in Bedford Hills, New York.

It is probably why the volume isn't very high.

The Dow Jones industrial average <.DJI> gained 74.97 points, or 0.61 percent, to 12,272.85. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index <.SPX> rose 6.74 points, or 0.51 percent, to 1,316.93. The Nasdaq Composite Index <.IXIC> climbed 20.04 points, or 0.74 percent, to 2,750.72.

Home Depot Inc , up 2.7 percent at $37.64, was among the Dow's best performers after the home improvement retailer said it would buy back $1 billion of outstanding shares through an accelerated program.

Amazon.com Inc rose 2.7 percent to $173.95 after it introduced a service offering remote access to music, ahead of rivals Apple Inc and Google Inc .

Cisco Systems gained 0.9 percent to $17.29 after it said it plans to buy software company newScale Inc for an undisclosed amount to boost its cloud computing services.

Investors shrugged off economic data that showed U.S. consumer confidence fell in March as households worried about inflation, while home prices dropped for the seventh straight month in January.

On the downside, Apollo Group fell 4.9 percent to $40.28 after the education company said new enrollment fell 45 percent in second quarter.

Lennar Corp , the third-largest U.S. homebuilder, fell 3.7 percent to $19.03 after swinging to a first-quarter profit, but reporting a drop in revenue.

(Reporting by Chuck Mikolajczak; Editing by Jan Paschal)