Stocks were higher Friday but off their earlier highs after three big U.S. banks reported quarterly profits that topped forecasts, boosting hopes on Wall Street that third-quarter earnings will be better than feared and mark the end of the so-called earnings recession.

Powered by the upbeat bank earnings, around 1 p.m. ET the Dow Jones industrial average was up 70 points, or 0.4%, but was off earlier highs of about 160 points. The broad Standard & Poor's 500 stock index was 0.2% higher and the Nasdaq composite rose 0.2%.

Before the opening bell, JPMorgan Chase (JPM), Citigroup (C) and Wells Fargo(WFC), which is embroiled in a crisis over fraudulently opening customer accounts, all posted profit and sales numbers that exceeded analyst expectations. Bank shares were mixed after sharp early dains. Shares of JPMorgan were down 0.1% and Citigroup stock was 0.3% higher. Wells Fargo was down 0.7%.

Wall Street is hoping the S&P 500 will break a string of four straight quarters of contracting profit growth when the third-quarter earnings season is complete.

Investors will also be listening for further clues on the Federal Reserve's timetable for interest rate hikes, as chair Janet Yellen delivers a speech at 1:30 pm. ET.

U.S. retail sales rose 0.6% in September, coming in line with forecasts, another signal that the U.S. consumer is holding up well. Inflation at the producer level rose 0.3% last month, more than the 0.2% consensus estimate, according to the latest monthly reading on the producer price index.

The trio of bank beats in the U.S. provided a lift to stocks in Europe. The broad Stoxx Europe 600 index was 1.3% higher, and the German DAX was up 1.6% and the CAC 40 in Paris was 1.5% higher.

Shares also rose in Japan, with the Nikkei 225 up 0.5%.

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