Hong Kong shares edged up slightly yesterday in thin, jittery trade. The Hang Seng Index struggled as high as 9,237.53 before settling in at 9,146.8 at the close, a 0.77 per cent rise. Turnover, which has not exceeded $5 billion in two weeks, was $2.37 billion. Brokers said they held out little hope for market enthusiasm until at least after the Lunar New Year. Large orders were hard to execute in such a thin market. They said the market's difficulty in digesting a large order for First Pacific illustrated the problem. Several orders placed in 100,000 share lots drove the counter's price up 10 cents to $4.925 in the last hour of trade. In the final minutes it promptly collapsed to $4.75, closing with a gaping spread of nearly 20 cents and up just five cents for the day. 'It's a trait of an illiquid market, when major stocks can move up and down like this,' DBS Securities institutional sales vice-president Geoff Galbraith said. Interest should pick up following the holiday, with HSBC and Hang Seng Bank reporting on the following Monday, February 22. 'In a sense there will be some pent-up interest because it is difficult to trade now,' he said. Sassoon Securities institutional sales director Vincent Cheung Wing-shun held out more hope for the futures market, where volume had increased until the past week. 'The open interest is gathering pace, everyone has been watching how futures will develop,' he said. The number of outstanding contracts has exceeded 58,000, after less than 40,000 for much of December. The head of a French futures trading house attributed rising index futures volumes to trading by local corporates and professional traders. Research analysts expressed surprise that First Pacific grabbed the spotlight yesterday. Vickers Ballas analyst Eric Tomter said: 'It's kind of strange because any good news for the company is more long-term oriented.' Another analyst said: 'People are looking at a long-term story.' Later this month First Pacific's recently acquired 17.2 per cent-owned associate, Philippine Long Distance Telephone (PLDT) announces results and First Pacific will also make known its strategy for assisting PLDT's growth and integrating the acquisition into the company's other operations. First Pacific has lowered its debt levels since last year and has restructured the way it holds companies to lower debt exposure. For instance, associate PLDT's debt does not show on First Pacific balance sheets, as a subsidiary's would. Mr Tomter said: 'They're very good with financial engineering but I don't think fundamentally their books look an awful lot better.'