* Ct. Agricole rallies after profits beat forecasts
* FTSEurofirst 300 rises to set new seven-year high
* Athens to submit loan request, buying more time
By Sudip Kar-Gupta
LONDON, Feb 18 (Reuters) - Expectations that Greece would reach an agreement with its international lenders drove a pan-European stock index to a seven-year high on Wednesday, despite German resistance to the deal Greece wants.
Greece will submit a request to the euro zone on Thursday to extend a loan agreement for up to six months. EU paymaster Germany says Athens must stick to the terms of its existing bailout.
Nevertheless, traders said Greece was buying itself time, and Greece’s benchmark ATG equity index climbed 1.1 percent while the country’s banking index rose 5.7 percent.
The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 index advanced 0.7 percent to 1,515.90 points, at around its highest level since early 2008.
The euro zone’s blue-chip Euro STOXX 50 index rose 0.8 percent and Germany’s DAX gained 0.6 percent to put it near the DAX’s earlier record highs.
Greek banks such as Piraeus and National Bank of Greece were among the best performers on the FTSEurofirst 300, rising 4.9 and 6.8 percent respectively.
“While the political situation in Greece remains volatile, the economic and financial situation is more under control,” said Andreas Clenow, hedge fund trader at ACIES Asset Management. “I still see a bull market on stocks, and I have been buying into weakness on the Euro STOXX.”
Shares in Italy and Spain, whose economies face debt pressures similar to Greece, outperformed. Italy’s FTSE MIB equity index rose 1.9 percent and Spain’s Ibex advanced 1 percent.
Italian oil and gas group Eni provided further support to the Milan market. Its shares rose 3.4 percent after ENI reassured investors with a small dividend increase and pledged to cut capital spending after lower oil prices depressed fourth-quarter profit.
European bank stocks were also boosted by French lender Credit Agricole, whose shares rose 7.6 percent after it posted profits that beat market forecasts.
French conglomerate Bollore rose 2.5 percent after Carson Block, the head of investment research firm Muddy Waters, forecast solid gains for Bollore shares.
Around 58 percent of European companies that have reported results so far have met or beaten consensus forecasts, according to Thomson Reuters StarMine data.
HED Capital head Richard Edwards added that the the European Central Bank’s imminent government bond-buying programme of quantitative easing, aimed at spurring the region’s economy, was providing further support.
“There’ll be some dips along the way but QE should give stocks a lift,” said Edwards.
Europe bourses in 2015: link.reuters.com/pap87v
Asset performance in 2015: link.reuters.com/gap87v
Today’s European research round-up (Additional reporting by Francesco Canepa; Editing by Larry King)