Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange
Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, February 22, 2011. REUTERS

US stocks advanced in early trade on Wednesday as better-than-expected first quarter earnings from JP Morgan buoyed sentiment.

The S&P 500 Index advanced 6.21 points, or 0.47 percent, to trade at 1,320.09 at 9:40 a.m. EDT. The Dow Jones Industrial Average advanced 54.22 points, or 0.44 percent, to trade at 12,317.80. The Nasdaq Composite Index gained 0.66 percent.

Shares of JP Morgan Chase & Co. (NYSE:JPM) gained 1.22 percent to $47.23 after the company said its first-quarter net profit surged 67 percent. Net profit rose to $5.6 billion or $1.28 per share from $3.3 billion or$0.74 per share in the same quarter last year, while analysts expected a net profit of $1.16 per share.

Among other banking stocks, Citigroup (NYSE:C) gained 0.44 percent and Bank of America Corp. (NYSE:BAC) advanced 0.89 percent, while Morgan Stanley (NYSE:MS) rose 1.75 percent.

US retail sales rose slightly less than expected in March, but recorded a gain for a ninth consecutive month. Retail and food services sales in the US rose 0.4 percent to $396.3 billion in March compared with the upwardly revised figure of 1.1 percent increase in February. Core retail sales, excluding motor vehicle and parts, rose 0.8 percent compared with a 1.1 percent gain in February.

U.S. stocks ended lower on Tuesday as Alcoa sales missed estimates and energy stocks declined as oil prices plunged more than 3 percent.

The euro advanced 0.07 percent to 1.4488 against the dollar and the yen declined 0.57 percent against the greenback.

Crude oil futures gained 0.48 percent to $106.76/barrel and gold futures rose 0.48 percent.

European stock markets are currently trading higher with FTSE 100 up by 74.48 points, DAX30 up by 88.07 points and CAC 40 up by 43.21 points.