Hong Kong stocks finished moderately higher yesterday as profit-taking pared early sharp gains that took the market close to the 15,000-point level. Strength in property stocks was offset by weakness in the utility sector, principally Hongkong Telecom. Brokers said the 15,000-point level represented a tough obstacle after the recent rapid run-up but handover optimism could still carry the market to record heights this month. The Hang Seng Index closed 71.41 points firmer at 14,831.58, after shedding 1.53 per cent on Tuesday. The market opened strongly, rapidly running up to an intra-day high of 14,979.76 points as the full results of the previous day's land auction were factored into prices. Shortly after the market closed on Tuesday, Cheung Kong and affiliate Hutchison Whampoa paid $6.06 billion for a plot of land in Hunghom, exceeding analysts' forecasts. An earlier sale made during trading hours for a Stanley site had disappointed investors and helped to pull the index lower. Henyep Securities research manager Charles Cheng said: 'News of the [Kowloon-side] sale fed through. Investors feel reassured that the prices were quite good.' He said the sector had also been lifted by news the Villa Esplanada joint-venture residential project on Tsing Yi Island had elicited a strong response from prospective buyers. Registration for the first batch of 160 units ended yesterday. The project is controlled by China Resources Enterprise, Sun Hung Kai Properties and Cheung Kong. Cheung Kong ended 2.25 per cent stronger at $79.50 and Sun Hung Kai Properties rose 0.52 per cent to $96.25. China Resources, however, ended slightly lower at $27.50. Sino Land firmed, adding 2.8 per cent to $9.15. Citic Pacific posted another strong advance, rising 3.16 per cent to $48.90. Citic has climbed more than 10 per cent this week amid comments from its parent about the possible acquisition for the firm of power projects in Shanghai. China Light & Power, which is 20 per cent held by Citic, rose 0.7 per cent to $43.10. After the market closed, Citic played down the speculation, saying it was not engaged in any talks with its parent. Among the losers, Hongkong Telecom fell 2.02 per cent to $17.05. Brokers said the utility's $4 climb since early May on stake-sale rumours left it vulnerable to a correction. Outside the index, Beijing Enterprises rose 2.91 per cent to $53. Bankers Trust said it was issuing 50 million call warrants on the stock. Nava SC Securities director John Schofield said the market could move higher if key property stocks were able to breach and remain above trigger points. He put the threshold for Sun Hung Kai Properties at $97, Cheung Kong at $80 and Hutchison at about $65.