UPCOMING blue-chip earnings announcements kept investors 'playing it safe' yesterday as the market opened the week in a slow fashion, typical of trading this summer. The Hang Seng Index closed down 44.43 points, or 0.47 per cent, at 9,318.40 in light trading. Trading was staid in a narrow 44.93-point range. Turnover was down on Friday's adjusted $2.77 billion, at $2.18 billion, with volume also light and 1.1 billion shares trading hands. 'The earnings chickens are coming home to roost,' said Nial Gooding, head of sales at Kleinwort Benson. 'That is in the absence of any other stimulus.' Brokers said the key results being awaited were Cathay Pacific Airways and its majority owner Swire Pacific - both of which report this week - and HSBC Holdings, which reports next week. That left many turning to second-liners, which saw relatively active trading. Three - Pearl Oriental, First Asia International and Paliburg International - made the top 10 list of heaviest traded by turnover. Paliburg International was the only one seen as having direction to it, due to its recent merger with Paliburg Development, closing up 10 cents to $5.10 on turnover of $73.63 million. The other second-liners were seen as subject to speculative buying and selling, both closing slightly higher. Local investors were also pegging their moves on the ups and downs of United States markets and the trading of international investors, which has been limited over the past few weeks, brokers said. 'When you don't know what is going on, you look at Wall Street,' South China Brokerage director Howard Gorges said. 'We don't always follow it slavishly, but we are doing it now for lack of any other reason. 'That's one excuse for the market being so thin, and if you get a pleasant surprise from Swire or Hongkong Bank, you can see a turn - most likely an upturn. 'These days, you only need two or three of the big ones to go up or down to change the index.' That happened yesterday, with HSBC Holdings falling $1, to $104.50, and Hongkong Telecom losing 20 cents, to $13.65. Together they account for about 26.5 per cent of the Hang Seng Index, and yesterday made up a combined turnover of $262.28 million. A decline on Wall Street on Friday caused the index to open 49.74 points lower, at 9,313.09, hitting a day's low of 9,305.23 shortly after 10.30 am and closing for the morning down 35.71 points, or 0.38 per cent. The afternoon was more positive, with the index opening at 9,330.4 and rising to the day's high of 9,350.16 just after 3 pm. It fell steadily, however, to the 3.45 pm close. All major sectors lost ground, with property leading the fall. Its sub-index closed 108.52 points, or 0.68 per cent, down at 15,847.45. The finance sub-index fell 0.21 per cent, or 18.48 points, closing at 8,963.12, while the utilities sub-index dropped 0.46 per cent, or 48.04 points, to 10,338.11. CITIC Pacific, which last week won the bid to redevelop the Central Tamar site, recovered from Friday losses on concern that its bid was too high, climbing 15 cents to $21.20. Hopewell Holdings lost 15 cents, closing at $6.30, while Sun Hung Kai Properties fell 75 cents, to $56.25. Henderson Land was unchanged at $42.90. In the finance sector, the drop in HSBC Holdings overpowered gains in Hang Seng Bank, which closed up 25 cents, at $64.75. Bank of East Asia fell 10 cents, closing at $25.90. Continued concern over falling earnings for Hongkong Telecom because of new competition overshadowed gains in other utilities, with China Light & Power closing 30 cents up at $40. Hongkong Electric closed up 15 cents to $27.30 and Hong Kong and China Gas was unchanged at $12.20. Cathay Pacific, meanwhile, which will report interim earnings tomorrow, gained 25 cents on positive expectations, closing at $11.25. Parent Swire fell 75 cents, to $59.25. The Hang Seng Mid-Cap 50 Index also closed down, falling 0.14 per cent, to 1,284.57. Brokers said until key results were announced, the market would remain locked in a 9,200 to 9,500 range. 'I would expect it to come down a bit, but not that much,' said Dao Heng Securities dealer Low Kok-keong. 'You only have profit-takers who are out bargain hunting. 'The big boys are not in the play. They're on holiday, and there probably won't be that much excitement until the end of the month.'