THIN and directionless trading meant the Hang Seng Index hardly moved yesterday, with investors sidelined in wait for fresh incentives. The index closed higher by just 1.73 points, or 0.01 per cent, at 9,453.42, with trading light and in a narrow 30.5-point range. Trading in all sectors was unenthusiastic while speculative buying and selling in second and third liners was relatively active. Overall turnover was light, at $2.61 billion, dropping from an adjusted $4.02 billion on Friday. 'Things are very dull all round,' South China Brokerage director Howard Gorges said. 'Turnover has dropped and trading is in an unusually narrow range. I don't think it is for any one particular reason except that . . . there is nothing to get enthusiastic about. Investors are being wary. 'They are not necessarily bearish, but there is no lead for them to follow at the moment.' Kleinwort Benson director Nial Gooding said investors were continuing to wait on some clear direction from overseas markets solely as a result of a lack of action in Hong Kong. 'This is very much the dry season as far as liquidity is concerned. There is no liquidity at all, so we're waiting for the next movement on Wall Street,' Mr Gooding said. 'We must have money coming in from the United States. Without that, we're lost.' The index opened at 9,446.13 yesterday, a negligible decline on Friday's close of 9,451.69. It peaked at 9,465.20 after midday and closed for the morning at 9,454.25. The afternoon session saw trading in a narrower range, opening a touch higher at 9,461.63 and dropping just below 9,440 before climbing slightly in the last few minutes of trading. All sectors saw mixed results, with slight movement in banks early in the day but torpid trading in property and utility stocks. The morning session saw some gains in banking stocks for the third straight day following Bank of East Asia's solid interim earnings report, but the high fizzled out by the morning close and they ended mixed. Bank of East Asia, which last week reported better than expected six-month earnings, climbed slightly, peaking at $26.35 before closing up five cents at $26.25. HSBC Holdings closed 50 cents higher, at $105, after falling to $103.50 during the day. Hang Seng Bank fell 25 cents, hitting a high of $64.50 and a low of $63.50. It closed at $63.75. Rumours of lower than anticipated square footage prices on bids for the prime Tamar Basin site put a damper on property trading. Cheung Kong lost 20 cents to close at $38.80, while New World Development closed up five cents, at $28.20. Sun Hung Kai Properties gained 25 cents, closing at $58.25. Utilities, too, were mixed, with Hongkong Telecom closing even at $14.20 after hovering between $14.15 and $14.30. Turnover, at $107.26 million, was back to normal from the heavy dumping early last week on fears of a price war that was expected to have a negative effect on earnings. Hongkong Telecom announced on July 21 it was lowering calling charges by as much as 21 per cent in response to competitors' low rates. China Light shed 30 cents, closing at $40.40, while Hong Kong Electric gained 25 cents, to close at $28.05. Hongkong and Shanghai Hotels continued its climb on the heels of last week's solid interim earnings announcement. The luxury hotel and property group's shares gained 35 cents yesterday to close at $10.10, after peaking at $10.15 and bottoming out at $9.70. The Hang Seng MidCap 50 Index closed a touch lower at 1,280.82 against Friday's close of 1,280.84. Brokers predicted trading would continue to be slow throughout the week. Tai Fook Securities manager of research Elton Cheung said: 'Nearly all the good news from last week - like Bank of East Asia results - has been digested already, and now people are saying things will not be so good in the second half. 'So they are sitting on the sidelines and will watch for a while. 'I am a little bit bearish. I think it will get around the 9,200 level, and maybe even slightly lower.' Morgan Grenfell director David Lavington said: 'The index is at a pretty vulnerable level in terms of its valuation right now . . . and it will move sideways for the next few months. 'From an index point of view, people's expectations are not very high.'