Wall Street advanced overnight, pushing the Dow and the S&P 500 higher, after JPMorgan Chase reported better-than-expected earnings and energy stocks rose with the price of oil.

In late afternoon trading in New York, the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 0.40 per cent, while the Standard & Poor's 500 Index gained 0.12 per cent. The Nasdaq Composite Index fell 0.37 per cent.

Gains in shares of Exxon Mobil and those of Chevron, each up 2.2 per cent recently, helped propel the Dow higher. Energy stocks gained along with the price of oil amid a second report pointing to a decline in US production.

"It's a small change, just a drop in the ocean, but an excuse to buy," Carsten Fritsch, analyst at Commerzbank, told Reuters.

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Shares of JPMorgan climbed, last up 2 per cent, after the company reported earnings that exceeded expectations. Shares of Wells Fargo fell, last 0.8 per cent weaker, after the bank reported a drop in net income.

US earnings will drive equities in the coming weeks.

"Expectations are low, primarily because of economic weakness during the first quarter related to weather, the strong dollar, the West Coast dock strike and oil prices," Tim Ghriskey, chief investment officer of Solaris Group in Bedford Hills, New York, told Reuters.

Shares of Johnson & Johnson traded 0.1 per cent higher after the company posted results that impressed investors even as the strong US dollar weighed on earnings and prompted the company to lower its full-year earnings forecast.

"If you look operationally - let's take out foreign exchange - the numbers are actually fairly strong," Tony Butler, an analyst at Guggenheim Securities, told Bloomberg. "They're still growing the pharma business, principally in immunology and oncology."

The latest economic data offered signs of improvement in the US.

US retail sales increased 0.9 per cent in March, the first gain in four months, following a 0.5 per cent decline in February, according to Commerce Department data. Separately, a Labor Department report showed the producer price index for final demand advanced 0.2 per cent in March, following a 0.5 per cent drop in February. It was the first gain in five months.

"A rebound in retail sales in March provides evidence that the US economy is pulling out of a soft patch seen at the start of the year," Chris Williamson, chief economist at Markit in London, told Reuters. "The improvement in retail sales ... adds to the likelihood of policymakers voting to hike rates this year."

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In Europe, the Stoxx 600 Index ended the session with a 0.5 per cent decline from the previous close, a record. France's CAC 40 Index slid 0.7 per cent, while Germany's DAX dropped 0.9 per cent.

A drop in shares of Nokia Oyj weighed on euro-zone equities. Nokia weakened 3.6 per cent after the company confirmed it was in talks to buy Alcatel-Lucent.

The UK's FTSE 100 Index bucked the euro-zone trend, closing 0.2 per cent higher.