GLOBAL MARKETS-Stocks shrug off virus worries; ECB in focus

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* MSCI Asia ex-Japan index up 1% as virus jitters ebb

* Dollar loiters near year’s highs as ECB awaited

* Oil clings to bounce on firming demand hopes

By Tom Westbrook

SINGAPORE, July 22 (Reuters) – Asian stocks rallied on Thursday, bonds nursed losses and oil held onto sharp gains as investors seemed to set aside virus jitters for now and looked ahead to the European Central Bank for reassurance that policy support will continue for some time.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan followed Wall Street higher and rose 1% with broad gains from Sydney to Seoul and Hong Kong . Japanese markets are closed until Monday.

There was no obvious catalyst for the recent rebound in stocks, or the drawdown on Friday and Monday, though a study on Wednesday showed both Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines were effective against the Delta coronavirus variant.

“Every now and then investors look for reasons to take some profits off and that’s what we saw,” said…

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