THE stock market had its lowest turnover for more than a year yesterday, with dealers predicting more of the same in the run-up to the debate on Governor Chris Patten's election proposals after the Lunar New Year. The Hang Seng Index fell 74.59 points to 5,437.8 on turnover of $954.3 million, the lowest since December 31, 1991. ''We've done almost no business at all,'' said the sales manager at one international brokerage. Turnover was particularly low as neither London nor New York fund managers had returned from their New Year breaks, leaving the market in the hands of small local investors. Share prices fell a little as the artificial support known as window dressing, which had kept the Hang Seng Index above 5,500 in advance of fund managers' performance reviews at the end of the year was removed. Merrill Lynch, in its latest investment strategy bulletin, points out that contrary to market expectations the Patten package would not be put to a vote in February, with that date merely marking the start of a committee examination of the package, with the final vote perhaps in July. This meant that some investors could stay out of the market for as long as six months, the bulletin said. Shares were marked down when the market opened, then traded in a very narrow band, with each price change in a major stock showing up clearly in the index performance. After 15 minutes' trading the index was at 5,455, and it drifted down during the morning, touching the day's low of 5,431.29 after an hour. Just before lunch a brief price mark-up in HSBC Holdings to $55 pulled the index to about 5,448, and for the rest of the day it traded within five points of 5,440. One indication of the very light trade was that the highest turnover after HSBC Holdings was in Tse Sui Luen, the jewellery-maker turned China play which attracted minor speculative interest. Utility stocks had the largest falls, the utilities index falling 116.62 to 6,922.36, and some property stocks were also down. ''The utility stocks were the main targets of the window dressing last Thursday and they had to come down today,'' said Mr Andrew To Koon-hung, sales director at PBI Securities. Mr To said investors were worried by the prices of properties coming on to the market, which could force analysts to downgrade forecasts for developers. Although dealers have reported growing optimism over the past week of a compromise on the Sino-British debate, the television interview given by China's top official on Hongkong affairs, Mr Lu Ping, appeared to dampened spirits during yesterday's trade. The futures exchange also had a quiet day, although trade was up on the last day of last year. The cash equivalent of Hang Seng Index futures was $963 million. A total of 3,536 contracts were written, with the January Hang Seng Index contract closing at 5,452, down 28 points and a 14-point premium to the cash index. The February contract dipped more sharply, down 50 points to 5,440. The fall in the utilities sector was led by Hongkong Electric, which fell 60 cents or 3.8 per cent to $15. China Light and Power fell 75 cents, 2.3 per cent, to $32.25. Hotel companies did well, with Hongkong and Shanghai Hotels having the best rise of any index stock, up 10 cents to $5.60. Mandarin Oriental also rose, up five cents to $7.15. MKI Corp had the day's biggest fall, down five cents or 8.9 per cent to 51 cents. Over the holiday break the company said it wanted to become a diversified holding company. Chairman Arthur Lai Cheuk-kwan was told to pay $83.9 million by a court on December 31 after being found negligent in his management of another company. RJP Electronics rose 7.5 cents, or 20.3 per cent, to 44.5 cents. The rise appeared to have been due to a small number of speculators keen to buy the company after its announcement before Christmas of a tie-up with a mainland cable maker.