A 4.8 per cent sell-off in Hang Seng Bank shares led the market lower yesterday, offsetting gains made by some property counters. Parent bank HSBC fell 1.3 per cent, after the group's 1996 earnings report on Monday. The falls were expected after the banking group's results failed to exceed analysts' forecasts, though profits for the group as a whole remain healthy. Julian Ings-Chambers, assistant director of sales at Barclays de Zoete Wedd, said: 'The results came in at the top end of what people were thinking . . . you saw some profit-taking ahead of the results last week which was a sign.' Edward Chan, managing director at Amsteel Securities, said: 'Banks are under some pressure after the Hang Seng results. Most focus is on the property developers . . . March is a critical month for them.' The Hang Seng Index ended 57.2 points weaker at 13,450.08 points. The fall in banking shares yesterday masked a growing optimism toward some property counters. Brokers said high expectations about the pricing of Cheung Kong's residential joint venture Laguna Verde on Friday helped to support the sector. Mr Ings-Chambers said properties advanced on talk Cheung Kong might secure between $10,000 and $12,000 per square foot for the Laguna Verde units. Mr Ing-Chambers said BZW's forecast was $8,000 per square foot. Despite the talk, Cheung Kong, which rallied on Monday, closed $1 lower at $75.75. Sun Hung Kai Properties added 1.1 per cent to $91.75, while Amoy Properties was 1.61 per cent stronger at $9.45. Brokers said fears of an interest rate rise were not widespread and property counters could ride out an increase of 25 basis points if that assessment was incorrect. Mr Chan said: 'We are not particularly worried about an interest rate [rise]. Economic indicators do not suggest a rise in inflationary pressure.' Banking, property and telecoms business First Pacific firmed 2.8 per cent to $11. On Monday, it reported a 20.5 per cent fall in attributable profit, slightly better than market forecasts. Mr Chan said the index was set for more range-trading. 'We will continue to see a see-saw movement. In the past two months, the index has formed a solid base. It is slightly above the 50-day moving average,' he said.