THIN trade and conflicting views on Sino-British relations added up to some sharp prices swings on the stock exchange yesterday, but by the close of trade the index was down just 17.63 points. The market started well as it digested the link-up between CITIC Pacific and Swire Pacific in Tuesday's government land auction but as the index approached 6,450 investors became more nervous and retail investors started selling. A late rally was helped by rumours of a further positive statement on Sino-British relations by Mr Lu Ping, a stock market favourite since he put 100 points on the index last Friday. However, the only remarks from Beijing came from Premier Li Peng after the market closed. Allied Industries and its associate Santai were suspended after 48 minutes of trade, although this was long enough for Santai's price to rise 15.9 per cent, more than any other stock managed in the full day. With no big news on major stocks, speculators returned to the pastime of trying to spot which company would be next to have a mainland organisation take it as a listed shell. Prices moved up aggressively for the first 15 minutes of trade, with the index touching 6,440.68 before starting to slide. ''There was no great support in the market. It didn't feel firm,'' said a senior manager at a major brokerage. Prices slipped for the rest of the morning and during lunch, picking up only in the last 30 minutes of trade. The index ended at 6,388.86 on volume of $3.06 billion, more than $1 billion down from Wednesday's corrected figure. The futures exchange recorded relatively light activity and prices moved in line with the index. Dealers said the low volume was normal for a day with low equity trade and was unlikely to be caused by the launch of Hongkong futures on SIMEX in Singapore. The strongest stock in the index was Hongkong Electric, helped by the re-emergence of speculation, so far unfounded, that a reorganisation with Hutchison Whampoa would boost long-term profit growth or that a CITIC company would take a stake. The shares closed up 40 cents or 2.4 per cent at $17.20. Swire Pacific A shares touched $34 during the day but ended flat at $33.25. CITIC Pacific traded as high as $18.10 but fell back to $17.80, a rise on the day of 20 cents. Finance stocks had slightly the best day, helped by a 50-cent rise in HSBC Holdings to $67.50. It was the day's biggest traded stock with turnover of $225.6 million. Allied Industries was suspended at 94 cents, up six cents or 6.8 per cent. Santai was suspended at $2.075, a rise of 28.5 cents. Chesterfield recorded seven large trades totalling 3.6 million shares at 70 cents. The stock has been subject to speculation that a controlling shareholder may have to sell shares to raise cash. Speculators pushed FP Bancshares to $4.30, a rise of 50 cents or 13.1 per cent. Dickson Concepts moved up 30 cents or 4.6 per cent to $6.85, a block of 1.5 million shares changing hands at $6.65.