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Australia: Shares up as investors breathe sigh of relief over yuan


[SYDNEY] Australian shares rose 0.12 per cent on Friday as the market continued to stabilise after the shock devaluation of the yuan, but the benchmark was still on track for a weekly loss.

The S&P/ASX 200 index edged up 6.732 points to 5394.600 by 0135 GMT and was headed for weekly losses of 1.3 per cent. The benchmark inched up 0.1 per cent on Thursday.

Support came from the People's Bank of China (PBOC) reassuring investors on Thursday by saying there was no reason for the yuan to fall further given the country's strong economic fundamentals.

The PBOC had previously shocked markets around the world by setting its yuan exchange rate nearly 2 per cent lower on Tuesday.

China is Australia's largest trading partner, making its economy particularly sensitive to news from China. "Today we're seeing Renminbi (yuan) appreciation. It's marginally appreciating, but it's not depreciating, so that's given some confidence to our market," said Damien Boey, equity strategist at Credit Suisse.

The PBOC set the midpoint rate for the Chinese Yuan Renminbi at 6.3975 per dollar prior to market open, firmer than the previous day's close of 6.399.

The financial sector led stock market gains with Westpac up 0.57 per cent and NAB up 0.63 per cent, while ANZ was flat.

The energy sector suffered as global oil prices remained under pressure. Oil Search dropped 4.2 per cent while Origin Energy was down 2.6 per cent.

Cogstate Ltd, a cognitive test developer, rose as much as 11.6 per cent after announcing the company had been selected to provide services in two clinical trials.

Shares in agribusiness company Elders Ltd rose as much as 7.96 per cent after it said it would acquire up to US$30 million of Elders hybrids.

News Corp was up as much as 3.9 per cent after the media company announced strong Q4 results.

For more individual stocks activity click on New Zealand stocks rose for the first time in seven sessions with the benchmark NZX50 share index up 0.3 per cent to 5,752.83, as it climbed away from a one-month low touched the previous day.

Investors hand-picked stocks that had been battered over the past week for example Fletcher Building which was up 1.2 per cent - recovering from the 2 1/2-year low touched on Thursday.

Casino company Sky City Entertainment, which reported an improved annual result earlier this week, while Fisher & Paykel Healthcare was also firmer.

Chemical and resins manufacturer Nuplex was up 1.7 per cent after reporting a solid lift in its full year profit, raising its dividend, and stating it expected to see modest growth in the coming year.

Next week sees a run of company earnings, including reports from most of the leading stocks.