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Index rise slowed by property auction

SHARE prices seesawed in a narrow range yesterday, with the Hang Seng Index closing just 1.84 points down in the highest volume of the young year at $2.45 billion.

Much attention was paid to the property auction, with many dealing houses having staff in the auction hall relaying details via mobile telephones so stocks could be traded before the market closed at 3.30 pm.

''The land auction was neutral,'' said Mr William Chau Wing-hung, dealing director of Crosby Securities. ''The property sector was quite mixed.'' The Hang Seng Index closed at 5,671.26.

Further buying by overseas investors met profit-taking from locals.

As a result, the index rose and fell, rose and then fell again.

The index slipped as low as 5,658.21 in early trade, then rose steadily, passing 5,700 before 11 am to level off at about 5,708.

Just before lunch, prices jumped a little, touching 5,716.84, the day's high, then started to slide, reaching the 5,660 mark during the afternoon before bouncing back up just before the close.

On the futures exchange, the January Hang Seng Index future took a sharp 20-point dip after the stock market closed, to end at 5,672, a fraction of a point over the cash market.

After Monday's strong performance, Winsor Industrial fell back 30 cents or 2.3 per cent on profit-taking to end at $13.

HSBC also slipped from its high level on Monday, ending down 50 cents at $58.50.

Selective buying gave World International the best performance on the Hang Seng Index, by rising 15 cents or 2.2 per cent to $6.95.

It helped the commercial and industrial sector to become the best performer, adding 17.55 points to 4,260.2.

New World Developments added 30 cents or 1.8 per cent to $17.20.

Falls by other property stocks left the property index down 7.25 points at 8,564.77.

The day's biggest gain was posted by Ong Holdings, which put on 21.7 per cent or 20 cents to $1.12.

Two weeks ago, the company said it had bought a Guangzhou food company and its share price has nearly doubled since.

Hongkong Toy Centre shed some of its major gains of last week, falling 12 cents or 10.8 per cent to 99 cents, the largest percentage drop of the day.