Credit Agricole (CRARY) led European bank stocks higher on Wednesday after the French lender beat expectations for earnings in the fourth-quarter.

The bank reported revenues of €4.58 billion for the fourth quarter, a 5% beat against the consensus, and profit before tax of €1.27 billion that was 14% ahead of the consensus. It also beat estimates for underlying net income, which came in at €904 million.

The lender saw its common equity tier one capital ratio rise by 10 basis points to 12.1% and said that it will pay a cash dividend of €0.60, which was in line with expectations.

Credit Agricole stock rose more than 4%, to trade at €12.3, in response to the update.

The price action came amid broad strength for European bank stocks, which have taken heart from comments made by Fed chair Janet Yellen before the Senate Banking Committee on Tuesday.

Yellen sounded an upbeat tone on the outlook for the U.S. economy and, hawkishly, told the committee that the Fed would be unwise if waited for too long before tightening otherwise policy makers might find themselves in a position where they are forced to hike interest rates to faster in the future.

The Stoxx Europe 600 Banks Index rose by 1.62%, to 178.86, shortly after the opening bell on Wednesday.

Fellow French lender, Natixis (NTXFF) , saw its shares rise by more than 1% despite revealing that it has been placed under formal investigation in France over statements it made to investors at the start of the financial crisis.

German lenders were among the biggest risers elsewhere in Europe, with Deutsche Bank(DB) - Get Report having gained around 4% at one point, while Commerzbank (CRZBY) rose 2.8%.

In Spain, BBVA(BBVA) - Get Report and Banco Santander(SAN) - Get Report topped the IBEX stock index with gains of 2.8% and 1.9% respectively.

This is while UBI Banca (BPPUF) and UniCredit (UNCFF) rose near to the top of the FTSE MIB index with gains of 2.7% and 1.9% respectively.