* FTSEurofirst 300 up 0.2 pct, near seven-year high
* DAX rises above 10,000, hovers below record high
* Energy shares sag again as Brent fails to bounce back
By Blaise Robinson
PARIS, Dec 4 (Reuters) - European stocks rose on Thursday, with a benchmark index hovering near a seven-year high, helped by expectations the European Central Bank will embark on a sovereign bond-buying programme in coming months to boost the economy.
ECB President Mario Draghi is set to present updated forecasts for growth in output and inflation at a news conference following an ECB meeting on Thursday.
Investors expect Draghi to open the door wider to a U.S.-style government bond-buying scheme, seen strongly supportive for the equity market. He is not expected to announce such a programme on Thursday, but markets will scour his post-meeting news conference for any clues to when it might start.
“The ECB will probably launch a quantitative easing programme at some point,” said Patrick Mange, head of emerging markets strategy at BNP Investment Partners, which has 497 billion euros ($612 billion) in assets under management.
“The liquidity that this will bring, along with the liquidity from the Bank of Japan, will partly offset tighter U.S. policy. There will be a bit more volatility in markets, but globally, equities are quite attractive versus sovereign bonds.”
At 1141 GMT, the FTSEurofirst 300 index of top European shares was up 0.2 percent at 1,402.49 points, just a few points below a near seven-year high hit in mid-September.
Germany’s DAX was up 0.5 percent, at 10,022.54 points, just shy of a record high of 10,050.98 reached in June.
“The latest macro data from Europe has been disappointing, so all eyes are now on the ECB to see what the bank will do,” Barclays France Director Franklin Pichard said.
“Draghi’s speech today should set the tone for the rest of the year for the stock market.”
Shares in oil and gas firms lost ground again, as Brent crude failed to rebound above $70 a barrel. Statoil was down 2.2 percent and BP down 1.3 percent.
Ryanair featured among the top gainers, up 7.5 percent after the low-cost airline raised its profit forecast for the second time in a month as passenger numbers jumped 22 percent in November.
Other airlines also gained ground, with Air France-KLM up 0.7 percent and Deutsche Lufthansa up 1.1 percent. Airlines have been the big winners of the recent drop in oil prices as jet fuel, derived from crude, accounts for around a third of airlines’ operating costs.
Europe bourses in 2014: link.reuters.com/pap87v
Asset performance in 2014: link.reuters.com/gap87v
Today’s European research round-up
Editing by Susan Thomas