Asia stocks drift as yuan stable for second day, easing uncertainty about more devaluation

Energy Associated Press

Asian stock markets drifted Friday as China's currency stabilized for a second day, easing uncertainty about its direction after an unexpected devaluation earlier in the week.

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KEEPING SCORE: Japan's Nikkei 225 was down 0.2 percent to 20,545.58 while Hong Kong's Hang Seng was flat at 24,024.38. China's Shanghai Composite Index added 0.5 percent to 3,972.40. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 was down 0.6 percent to 5,357.10. Financial markets in South Korea were closed for a holiday. Singapore's index gained but other Southeast Asian markets were lower.

CHINA CALM: The dollar was buying 6.401 yuan, little changed from the previous change after Zhang Xiaohu, a deputy governor at People's Bank of China, said Thursday that there is "no basis for persistent and substantial devaluation." Zhang said the yuan is close to "market levels" after two days of declines. The yuan fell about 3 percent this week, beginning its slide on Tuesday after a surprise change in exchange rate policy, which roiled global financial markets and caused Asian stocks and currencies to tumble. Beijing said the change was aimed at making the tightly controlled currency more market-oriented.

ANALYST'S TAKE: "Market sentiments are noticeably more composed today," said Bernard Aw, a market strategist at IG. "However, there may not be any large positioning ahead of the weekend and any gains in the risk asset markets are expected to be modest."

ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude fell further from a six-year low, down 20 cents at $42.03 per barrel in electronic trading on New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract slipped fell $1.07 to close at $42.23 on Thursday, its lowest close since March 3, 2009. Brent crude, an international benchmark, was down 15 cents at $49.48 in London.

WALL STREET: Major U.S. stock indexes closed nearly unchanged after spending much of Thursday changing course. The Standard & Poor's 500 lost 0.1 percent to close at 2,083.39. The Dow Jones industrial gained less than 0.1 percent to 17,408.25 and the Nasdaq composite lost 0.2 percent to 5,033.56.

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CURRENCIES: The dollar weakened to 124.40 yen from 124.42 yen in the previous trading session. The euro also fell to $1.1145 from $1.1154.