The anxiety that rattled markets earlier this week dissipated Thursday as China's central bank calmed concerns that the country's currency would continue its slide. Major markets in Europe and Asia made gains, while the U.S. stock market finished with a slight loss.
Officials from China's central bank defended recent moves to loosen the government's grip on its currency, saying that the yuan will eventually rebound from its recent fall. There is "no basis for persistent and substantial devaluation," said a deputy central bank governor, Zhang Xiaohui. The yuan is close to "market levels" after two days of sharp drops, Zhang said.
Beijing's surprise devaluation of its currency shook markets around the world this week, upending stocks, commodities and currencies.
"I think the central bankers have given people a reason to believe they're not that worried," said Jason Pride, director of investment strategy at Glenmede, a money management firm. "That's why we're seeing some recovery today."
The major U.S. stock indexes spent much of Thursday changing course. They fell in the morning, climbed higher in the afternoon then drifted lower in the final hour of trading.
The Standard & Poor's 500 index lost 2.66 points, or 0.1 percent, to close at 2,083.39.
The Dow Jones industrial gained 5.74 points, less than 0.1 percent, to 17,408.25 and the Nasdaq composite lost 10.83 points, or 0.2 percent, to 5,033.56.
"This week it has really been all about China's move and trying to interpret what its broader impact might be," said Stephen Freedman, senior investment strategist at UBS Wealth Management. "Now it seems cooler heads are prevailing. People are saying, `Maybe this might not be as big of a deal as feared."'
A handful of big companies turned in quarterly results. The department-store chain Kohl's reported quarterly sales and earnings that fell short of analysts' estimates. The news knocked its stock down $5.39, or 9 percent, to $56.11.
Cisco Systems surged after posting quarterly results that topped analysts' expectations after the market closed on Wednesday. The maker of computer networking equipment credited rising revenue from selling data-center servers and its collaboration with other businesses. Cisco's stock gained 80 cents, or 3 percent, to $28.70, the biggest gain of any company in the Dow.
Major Asian benchmarks finished higher after a two-day slump. Japan's Nikkei 225 rose 1 percent, and South Korea's Kospi gained 0.4 percent. In China, Hong Kong's Hang Seng climbed 0.4 percent, while the Shanghai Composite Index on the mainland added 1.8 percent.
In Europe, Germany's DAX gained 0.8 percent and France's CAC-40 climbed 1.2 percent The FTSE 100 index of leading British shares finished with a tiny loss.
U.S. government bonds sank, lifting the yield on the 10-year Treasury note to 2.19 percent from 2.15 percent late Wednesday.
In the commodity markets, gold fell $8 to settle at $1,115.60 an ounce, while silver sank 8 cents to $15.40 an ounce. Copper picked up a fraction of a penny to $2.35 a pound.
The price of oil slipped to another six-year low Thursday on continuing concerns about high global supplies. U.S. crude fell $1.07 to close at $42.23, its lowest close since March 3, 2009. Brent crude, an international benchmark, fell 44 cents to close at $49.22 in London.
In other futures trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange:
— Wholesale gasoline fell 5 cents to close at $1.714 a gallon.
— Heating oil fell 1.8 cents to close at $1.569 a gallon.
— Natural gas fell 14.4 cents to close at $2.787 per 1,000 cubic feet.