STOCKS could open into a vacuum when trading begins today following the horror 171.24-point Wall Street dive on Friday. The slide in the Dow Jones Industrial Average was caused by better than expected United States unemployment figures which appeared to rule out any chance of an interest rate cut this month. The Hang Seng London Reference Index fell 312.20 points to 10,905.59 on Friday after the news and brokers see the Hang Seng Index ending today's trade as low as 10,850. 'It's going to be very nasty,' the head of sales at Kleinwort Benson Securities, Nial Gooding, said. 'We have the capacity to go down 500 points,' he said. Last week, the Hang Seng Index closed 22.85 points higher at 11,217.79 as it meandered in directionless trading. With little upside support, the disappointing news on interest rates was likely to send it sharply down, brokers said. The number of jobs in the US rose an unexpected 705,000 last month, the largest increase in more than 12 years. Many investors were hoping the job growth would be less emphatic, giving the Federal Open Market Committee a reason to lower interest rates for the third time this year when it meets on March 26. US stocks fell heavily on Friday with the Dow closing 171.24 points or 3.04 per cent lower at 5,470.45, its biggest one-day fall since November 1994. It came within 33 points of triggering for the first time a rule that shuts trading for an hour if the Dow falls 250 points. The fall was replicated in most world markets. London's FTSE 100 Index lost 1.27 per cent to 3,710.30, and France's CAC 40 Index lost 1.62 per cent to 1,975.46. The likely fall in Hong Kong could be exacerbated by the fact many futures traders still have long positions in March. Brokers said the best scenario would be if losses were taken in one hit at the opening and the market found support in the 10,800s. Executive director at Tai Fook Securities, Lennon Chan, said: 'The worst thing that happens is if we have a long slow slide.' If there is any buying, investors are likely to switch to safer stocks such as the utilities and those which have good fundamentals but have been overlooked in the recent rally. At the projected opening of 10,800, the market's 1995 price-earnings ratio is 14.6 times, while on prospective earnings in 1996 it will be 13 times. This week will see the release of more economic data in the US which could shed further light on the next move by the Fed. Producer price inflation will be issued on Thursday and consumer price inflation on Friday. A strong indication that inflation is under control could still give the Fed a reason to cut rates. Other factors likely to influence trading this week are continuing concern about Chinese missile tests in the Taiwan Straits, and the next spate of corporate results. China continues its missile testing this week and many investors are staying out of the market in case the situation deteriorates. Howard Gorges, director at South China Brokerage, said: 'Logically, it should not be a big concern, but people think of it as going from bad to worse.' Cathay Pacific Airways and Great Eagle are due to report on Monday, Cosco Pacific and Shangri-La Asia on Thursday, and Swire Pacific and Hysan Development on Friday. Analysts expect mixed results and doubt they will boost the market.