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Asian Markets Mostly Up ahead of Trade Talks, Trump Fears Ease

Asian markets mostly rose Wednesday before keenly awaited trade talks between China and the United States, while early worries over a double whammy for Donald Trump also eased.

While not expecting a major deal when officials from Beijing and Washington meet, investors are hopeful they can find a way out of the months-long row that has seen tariffs imposed on billions of dollars of goods and stock markets tumble.

Recent comments from US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, signalling plans to delay a final decision on whether to impose duties on auto imports, have also provided some cheer.

Tokyo ended 0.6 percent higher and Hong Kong added 0.5 percent in the afternoon, while Seoul and Taipei each put on 0.1 percent and Wellington closed up 0.5 percent. Manila and Jakarta were also well up.

However, Shanghai finished 0.7 percent down while Sydney shed 0.3 percent, with political uncertainty in Canberra adding to selling pressure.

The day had started with a wobble as the US president's legal troubles deepened when his long-time personal lawyer Michael Cohen admitted several charges including illegally using campaign contributions to pay off a porn star and a Playboy model ahead of the 2016 election.

Cohen also said he had been directed to do so "at the direction of a candidate for federal office" and with the aim of influencing the election.

The claim could put Trump in legal jeopardy and throws open the prospect Cohen is about to open up to lawyers for the Russia investigation.

- Pound bounce -Also Tuesday the tycoon's one-time campaign chairman Paul Manafort was convicted on eight counts, including bank fraud, tax fraud and a failure to declare foreign bank accounts.

However, Richard Harris, chief executive officer at Port Shelter Investment Management, said he thought Trump would ride out the storm.

"I don't think that what we saw... in terms of Manafort and Cohen are necessarily fatal to the president," he told Bloomberg TV.

"There are quite a lot of things that could continue and he could still ride them out. It takes an awful lot to impeach a president and it may take an awful lot for Trump not to be elected for a second term."

On currency markets the dollar continued to stutter after Trump's negative remarks about the Federal Reserve's interest rate rises, extending losses against most other units.

The pound was one of the best performers against the greenback, breaking above $1.29 for the first time in almost two weeks after top European Union negotiator Michel Barnier said officials would now work non-stop on Brexit talks, which are in their final stage.

But Greg McKenna, chief market strategist at AxiTrader, suggested more pain down the road.

"Barnier essentially said if the UK wants a deal they have to abide by EU rules -- sounds like Brexit in name only and hard to get through the UK Parliament, surely," he said in a commentary.

In early European trade London fell 0.3 percent, Frankfurt shed 0.3 percent and Paris was flat.

- Key figures around 0720 GMT - Tokyo - Nikkei 225: UP 0.6 percent at 22,362.55 (close)

Hong Kong - Hang Seng: UP 0.5 percent at 27,903.17

Shanghai - Composite: DOWN 0.7 percent at 2,714.61 (close)

London - FTSE 100: DOWN 0.3 percent at 7,540.40

Euro/dollar: UP at $1.1573 from $1.1569 at 2100 GMT

Pound/dollar: UP at $1.2902 from $1.2895

Dollar/yen: DOWN at 110.25 yen from 110.27 yen 

Oil - West Texas Intermediate: UP 23 cents at $66.07 per barrel 

Oil - Brent Crude: UP 22 cents at $72.85 per barrel

New York - Dow Jones: UP 0.3 percent at 25,822.29 (close)

Source: Agence France Presse


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