Stocks jumped on Wednesday after JPMorgan Chase & Co posted a surge in profit, following stronger numbers from Intel Corp a day earlier in an auspicious start to third-quarter earnings season.

JPMorgan, the first major U.S. bank to report quarterly earnings, said profit rose sharply as underwriting revenue at its investment bank offset deeper losses on credit cards and other consumer loans.

The bank's profit and the stronger outlook from chip maker Intel set an early tone for earnings that many expect to underscore the stock market's seven-month rally and the prospects for economic recovery.

It's a really good start. These are major companies coming out with what looks to be surprisingly good news. said Eric Kuby, chief investment officer for North Star Investment Management Corp in Chicago.

The boost put indexes in striking distance of new highs for the year, with the Dow industrials poised to retake the psychologically important 10,000-level for the first time since October 2008.

JPMorgan shares rose 2.6 percent to $46.86 and Intel shares added 2.5 percent to $21.01.

The Dow Jones industrial average <.DJI> was up 77.54 points, or 0.79 percent, at 9,948.60. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index <.SPX> was up 9.76 points, or 0.91 percent, at 1,082.95. The Nasdaq Composite Index <.IXIC> was up 18.92 points, or 0.88 percent, at 2,158.81.

The CBOE Volatility Index <.VIX> fell more than 2 percent after closing the previous day at its lowest level since September 2008 -- before the bankruptcy of investment bank Lehman Brothers.

Underscoring optimism that the worst of the recession was over, a government report showed total sales at U.S. retailers fell by a less-than-expected 1.5 percent in September. Economists in a Reuters poll had forecast a 2.1 percent drop.

The S&P retail index <.RLX> rose 1.5 percent.

Oil rose for a fifth straight day on Wednesday to a 2009 high above $75 a barrel, boosted by a weak U.S. dollar and surprisingly strong trade data in China, the world's second-largest oil user.

The dollar tumbled to its lowest level in more than a year against the euro, hurt by persistent expectations for low U.S. interest rates as well as investor appetite for commodity currencies.

The Federal Reserve's minutes from its meeting of September 22-23 will be released at 2 p.m. with investors looking for signs of the Fed's thinking on the prospects for inflation.

Any hint at tightening monetary policy is certainly going to be scrutinized, said Peter Cardillo, chief market economist at Avalon Partners.

(Reporting by Edward Krudy; Editing by Padraic Cassidy)