GOVERNMENT land auctions can be misleading indicators of property market sentiment. It would be very wrong to assume from the enthusiasm at Wednesday's record-breaking land sale that everything was rosy in the industry. The strong competition for the $3.53 billion lot at Diamond Hill, Kowloon, may have been a thumbs up for the long-term future of the Hongkong residential property market, but was a poor indicator of more immediate market sentiment. The property sales market has slowed to such a pitiful pace that tycoons such Mr Li Ka-shing and Mr Stanley Ho have added their voices to the growing campaign to get the Government to lift its 70 per cent maximum mortgage lending guideline. In recent weeks the Hongkong Real Estate Developers Association has switched from being little more than a glorified social club for tycoons to a highly vocal lobby group. Market analysts joked that the exceptionally high turn-out of tycoons at this week's land auction was because the market was quiet and they had nothing better to do. But they all knew that the truth couldn't be more different. The high turn-out was an illustration of how hard developers are now having to work to secure a steady flow of development income for their companies in years to come in an environment when good development land in Hongkong is becoming more scarce by the month.