* Delta variant spread threatens economic recovery
* European shares open up 0.9% ahead of ECB meeting
* Nikkei +0.6% before extended Olympics weekend
* U.S. yields, dollar edge higher; gold down
By Andrew Galbraith and Lawrence White
SHANGHAI/LONDON, July 21 (Reuters) – The dollar neared its year-high and bonds rallied further on Wednesday, as the rapid spread of the Delta coronavirus variant displaced inflation as investors’ primary concern and sent them rushing for safe-haven assets.
European stocks also rose ahead of a European Central Bank meeting on Thursday that is expected to convey a dovish tone, with the benchmark STOXX index of the region’s 600 largest shares up 0.9%.
Last week, data showing a surge in U.S. consumer prices in June had sparked fears that the Federal Reserve could bring a quicker end to emergency stimulus measures.
The shift from a debate over whether price spikes are transitory to outright fear of the impact of the latest COVID-19 surge had pushed the U.S. 10-year yield down more than 20 basis points in the space of a week as investors have moved into safe-haven assets.
The S&P 500 slumped nearly 4% from highs last Wednesday to lows on Monday before rebounding.
The more positive mood in European shares on Wednesday contrasted with a 0.13% fall in MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan, as South Korea reported a daily record of new infections.
Seoul’s KOSPI slid 0.52% and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index fell 0.4%.
Japan’s Nikkei was 0.6% higher after touching six-month lows a day earlier, as investors bought cyclical stocks ahead of a long weekend that will mark the start of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and as a jump in exports in June boosted hopes for an export-led economic recovery.
Chinese blue-chip shares were also higher, up 0.68%
“The level of volumes, the level of sporadic whip-saw price action I think is telling you that there’s not a lot of conviction one way or another,” said Kay Van-Petersen, global macro strategist at Saxo Capital Markets in Singapore.
But while he said peak global growth had likely passed, easy central bank policies continue to provide strong support for global asset prices even as they begin to flag the tapering of asset purchases.
“The G4 central banks’ balance sheets have been compounding by 15% since 2008. And my point is that’s not going to stop. It’s not going to get shut off.”
U.S. Treasury yields dipped below the previous day’s close of 1.209% after earlier gains on Wednesday, settling at 1.205% by 0712 GMT.
The two-year yield was at 0.198%, up from a close of 0.194%.
But echoing concern in equities markets over a surge in global COVID-19 infections, the dollar stayed near three-month highs on Wednesday.
“While some of the world is shrugging off rising infections as vaccination rates limit the severity of any symptoms of new cases, there are few parts of the world that can totally ignore this,” said Rob Carnell, Asia-Pacific chief economist at ING.
The dollar index was…