European stock markets rose Wednesday with London jumping close to a record peak on hopes of an end to Greece's debt stand-off, dealers said.
Equities were jolted higher on news that crisis-hit Athens will ask for an extension to its bailout and avoid a painful eurozone exit.
In reaction, the British capital's benchmark FTSE 100 index of top companies soared to 6,921.32 points in morning deals, which was less than 30 points below its record intra-day high set in 1999.
The FTSE later stood at 6,903.30 points, up 0.08 percent from Tuesday's closing level, aided also by upbeat British unemployment data.
Elsewhere, Frankfurt's DAX 30 gained 0.60 percent to 10,960 points and the CAC 40 index in Paris rallied 1.01 percent to 4,801.70.
Athens' main shares index leapt 1.70 percent to 852.88 points, having earlier surged by more than 3.0 percent.
In foreign exchange activity, the euro fell to $1.1388 from $1.1413 late in New York.
"European equities are trading higher... as renewed optimism is making the rounds that Greece and the EU will agree to a compromise after all," said Markus Huber, analyst at broker Peregrine & Black.
Greece will ask to extend its European loan agreement without signing up to the loathed duties of a full-blown bailout, its Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis said.
Greek public television reported that Athens will on Wednesday send a letter to Jeroen Dijsselbloem, the head of the Eurogroup, requesting a six-month extension.
Europe and Greece are racing to reach a deal to prevent Greece from crashing out of the eurozone, after talks in Brussels had ended in acrimony on Monday.
The European portion of the 240 billion euro ($270 billion) bailout expires at the end of February and Greece's creditors insist it needs extra financing to stave off the risk of a default and a eurozone exit.
"There is a feeling that a lifeline will be cast out to save the Mediterranean nation," added IG analyst David Madden.
- 'Too much at stake' -
"Athens is angling for emergency funding for its banking system, and should the ECB deny it, it would effectively be turning its back on the debt-laden country.
"Europe doesn't want to let Greece go as it has too much at stake ... but at the same time it wants to save face, and this is why markets believe a rescue package will be reached in the end."
Back in London, the British pound soared to a seven-year pinnacle against the European single currency on the back of upbeat jobless data.
Britain's unemployment rate has descended to a new six-year low of 5.7 percent while growth in wages outpaced inflation, official data showed Wednesday.
In reaction, the euro sank to 73.63 pence -- the lowest level since January 2, 2008. It later stood at 73.82, down from 74.34 pence on Friday. The pound meanwhile rose to $1.5426 from $1.5352.
"Tighter labour market conditions are exerting upward pressure on wages and increasing the probability of a rate hike before year-end, highlighting divergent monetary stances by the Bank of England and European Central Bank. Hence the pound has rallied versus the euro," Nick Stamenkovic, macro strategist at RIA Capital Markets, told AFP.