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Asian Stocks Mixed as Cohen Plea Hits Sentiment

Asian markets were mixed in morning trade - Asian markets were mixed in morning trade on Wednesday after Michael Cohen, the former personal lawyer for U.S. President Donald Trump, admitted to making illegal payments and committed other crimes to influence the 2016 election.

Cohen pleaded guilty on Tuesday to eight counts related to tax fraud, excessive campaign contributions, making false statements to a financial institution, and unlawful corporate contributions. While he did not name Trump directly during the hearing, his attorney Lanny Davis said shortly afterward that "Donald Trump directed [Cohen] to commit a crime by making payments to two women for the principal purpose of influencing an election." The Justice Department confirmed late Tuesday that Trump was the unidentified candidate.

“The White House looks increasingly like a criminal enterprise with the convictions today of President Trump’s former campaign manager and personal lawyer," Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut said in a statement.

In Asia, the Shanghai Composite was down 0.5%, while the SZSE Component slid 0.6%. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index slipped 0.1%.

Down under, Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 continued to fall and traded 0.4% lower on Wednesday after a leadership challenge to Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull on Tuesday.

"With leadership changes and disunity amongst the major parties having marked Australian politics for a decade now, the disruption is likely to be met negatively by business," ANZ analysts said in a note.

Elsewhere, Japan’s Nikkei 225 and South Korea’s KOSPI gained 0.3% and 0.2% respectively in morning trade.

Looking ahead, minutes of the Federal Reserve policy-setting meeting is due later today, while markets are also likely to focus on whether Chairman Jerome Powell would drop clues on future rate policies when he speaks Friday at the Kansas City Fed’s annual gathering in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

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