SHARE prices closed virtually unchanged yesterday amid growing uncertainty the eagerly awaited interest rate cut will now be delivered. The Hang Seng Index eased 0.37 point to end at 9,863.61. At one stage, it fell as much as 68.16 points. Turnover was light at $2.57 billion, compared with the revised $5.79 billion for Thursday. Volume was also down, with 1.02 billion shares changing hands. Brokers said many in the market were starting to doubt whether a rate cut would be made when the United States Federal Reserve Open Market Committee met on December 19. These doubts had brought about a slump on Wall Street, where the Dow Jones industrial average recorded its steepest retreat since October. The Dow fell 39.74 points to 5,159.39 and helped drag the Hong Kong market lower. Michael Ng, dealing director at Sassoon Securities, said: 'The opening was weak as we followed Wall Street down, but selling pressure was not so strong.' Investors remained cautious following the $2.2 billion share placement by Henderson Land Development on Wednesday and the rumoured placement by HSBC on Thursday. The approaching week-end and year-end also dampened activity. Kent Rossiter, institutional sales manager at Sun Hung Kai Investment Services, said: 'Turnover was miserable. People are getting ready for the Christmas holidays and a lot of the volume has dried up.' The index opened weaker, slipping from its previous close of 9,863.98 to 9,805 after 15 minutes of trading. It spiked up before again heading into reverse, finding the day's low of 9,795.82 at 11.15 am. Strong support then boosted the market to close for lunch at 9,872.13, an intra-day gain of 8.15 points. The afternoon session saw narrow range-trading as momentum slipped away. Among the 33 Hang Seng Index constituents, nine rose, eight closed unchanged and 16 declined. Property counters were hardest hit, with the Hang Seng property sub-index falling 56.1 points to 16,923.7. New World Development led the index in net loss, falling 30 cents to $32.10. Its recently listed spin-off, New World Infrastructure, was also sold heavily, losing 30 cents to $14.05. Among other properties, Sun Hung Kai Properties fell 25 cents to $61, Great Eagle lost 20 to $19.95 and Hysan Development dropped 10 to $20.10. Utilities were mostly lower, with the Hang Seng utilities sub-index falling 33.49 points to 9,914.85. Hongkong Electric eased 25 cents to $25, China Light & Power fell 20 to $35.80 and Hong Kong and China Gas shed five to $12.60. Hongkong Telecom closed unchanged at $13.55. Banks bucked the trend, with the Hang Seng finance sub-index climbing 25.82 points to 9,782.31. Mr Ng said: 'The banking sector is still the favourite choice of the overseas investors.' Hang Seng Bank led the sector up, adding 75 cents to $68.75. The others were mixed. Index giant HSBC closed unchanged at $115.50 and Bank of East Asia fell 25 cents to $27.70. Commercial and industrial counters were mostly higher, with the Hang Seng sub-index climbing 19.97 points to 7,382.4. Conglomerates Citic Pacific and Swire Pacific both gained from news the listing of Hong Kong Dragon Airlines is gaining momentum. Citic, which owns 46.2 per cent of Dragonair, added 30 cents to $25.30. Swire, which owns 13 per cent, rose 75 cents to $60. Cathay Pacific, which owns 30 per cent of the airline, closed unchanged at $12.20. Johnson Electric powered up 60 cents to $15.20 ahead of the release of its interim results. The counter fell 70 cents on Thursday. Second and third line counters were largely overlooked although a few saw active trading. H shares fell heavily as investors again sold the counters on fears of poor disclosure and changes to China's company tax laws. The Hang Seng China Enterprises Index fell 11.17 points or 1.46 per cent to 756.28. Dongfang Electrical Machinery tumbled 17.5 cents or 7.21 per cent to $2.25. Harbin Power Equipment was also under pressure, dropping eight cents to $1.14, a fall of 6.55 per cent. Looking ahead, brokers expect the market to remain sluggish next week. Mr Rossiter said: 'I am looking for a support level at 9,700 but it is not likely to hit 10,000. The market should trade in a relatively narrow trading range.