SHARE prices fell yesterday as profit-takers cashed in on the recent rally and dragged the Hang Seng Index back below the 10,000-point level. The index lost 59.23 points or 0.59 per cent to close at 9,973.7. Turnover was moderate at $4.44 billion, marginally higher than the revised $4.43 billion for Tuesday. Volume was solid with 1.84 billion shares changing hands. Brokers said the fall was precipitated by investors seeking to lock in profits from the recent rally. The index had risen almost 400 points since last Wednesday. It would have gone down further yesterday if not for strong buying in banking counters. Patrick Chia, analyst at Cheerful Securities, said: 'Profit-taking is increasing as some of the big players are using bullish sentiment to increase their gains.' The turnaround surprised many because there was still plenty of good news flowing in from abroad. The US long bond yields remained at a near two-year low, Wall Street was strong on Tuesday and gains were also made in London. Brokers said news in the afternoon of a covered warrant issue on Cheung Kong also dampened sentiment. The market began the day firmer, climbing from the previous close of 10,032.93 to the day's high of 10,056.69 after 30 minutes of trading. It then declined steadily throughout the morning to close for lunch at 9,986.61, an intraday loss of 46.32 points. Trading in the afternoon was volatile as the index first rebounded above 10,000 before slumping towards the close to finish near the day's low of 9,957.99. Among the 33 index constituent stocks, four rose, six ended unchanged and 23 lost value. Property counters led the way down, with the Hang Seng sub-index falling 225.64 points or 1.28 per cent to 17,465.64. Michael Ng, dealing director at Sassoon Securities, said property stocks were being pegged down because many had outpaced their fundamentals. 'The shares of some of the property stocks have appreciated 20 per cent in the past few months but there is still not much prospect of rises in property prices,' he said. Sun Hung Kai Properties was the biggest loser among blue chips, falling $1 to $62.25. Henderson Land Development fell 40 cents to $49 and New World Development lost 20 to $32.20. Cheung Kong was the heaviest traded stock of the day on a turnover of $497.39 million. The counter slipped 30 cents to $43.90. Hopewell was again under pressure amid concern over cost overruns at its highway projects in China. The stock fell 25 cents or 4.67 per cent to $5.10. One dealer said investors were switching from Hopewell to New World Infrastructure as the latter's earnings appeared more promising. Banking stocks bucked the trend, with the Hang Seng finance sub-index adding 63.1 points to 9,516.36. HSBC continued its rise, gaining $1 to $114.50 on the second highest turnover of $475.26 million. Bank of East Asia put on 40 cents to $27.85, while Hang Seng Bank was unchanged at $64.50. Samuel Ho, research manager at Seapower Securities, said HSBC was being boosted by foreign money becoming increasing selective. HSBC also gained from rumours it might be preparing a takeover of the Royal Bank of Scotland. Conglomerate CITIC Pacific fared badly for a second day as concerns about the downgrading of its mainland parent filtered into the market. CITIC slipped 15 cents to $24.25 after losing 20 cents on Tuesday. Hongkong Telecom was also unpopular, dogged again by concerns its market share will be eroded by its new competitors. The stock dropped 25 cents to $13.75. Trading in second and third liners was light although selective counters attracted interest. Best Wide Group, which manufactures and sell textiles and garments, plummeted 48 cents to 78 cents, a loss of 38.1 per cent. One broker said: 'Basically, it is not a quality stock. There has been a lot of speculation over the past few weeks. Now some speculators are getting away from it.' With the market slipping below 10,000, most brokers are looking for it to enter a period of consolidation. Mr Ho said: 'We have seen that the market has no problem breaking 10,000 but it has a problem holding above that level. 'The economy is still weak and unless overseas investors start to buy, the market will probably slip to around 9,850 before finding support.'