THE Hang Seng Index yesterday drifted down 27.23 points to 7,141.11 against a background of thin trade and nervous speculation about the outcome of British Foreign Secretary Douglas Hurd's meeting in Beijing. Although turnover was more than double the $3.01 billion chalked up on Tuesday - the early figure was $6.77 billion - stripping out shares and warrants in Miramar Hotel left only $2.57 billion. Barclays de Zoete Wedd director K.S. Ng said: ''The movement of the market tells us people are not putting a very high expectation on Friday's meeting. ''They think the chances of having a major decision within two days is not likely, so the market in the past few days has drifted downwards a little bit because of the lack of any other positive news.'' Others put a more positive slant on the meeting, giving a two-way pull to the day. Vickers Ballas director Barry Yates said the bears were noting the lack of substance from the seventh round of talks and low expectations of any door being opened by Mr Hurd in Beijing, while the optimists thought behind-the-scenes talks might be moving ahead faster than was apparent. He pointed to the swollen premium on the index futures, which were trading at a premium of 100 points at one stage. July futures closed at 7,242 points and August at 7,248. Trading on the spot index was constrained within a tight band for much of the day. It dipped on opening, then recovered to end the morning session marginally higher than the previous day's close, at 7,181.68. In the afternoon it slid down, kicking up slightly in the final minutes of trade. Brokers reported largely local buying, with foreign money hinging more on a resolution of the economic problems in China than on the political tussle in the territory. Nomura Research Institute head of research Clive Weedon said: ''The big thing is, the market cannot move ahead without money. American money is entirely focused on what is happening in the mainland, because it is not interested in Hongkong for Hongkong'ssake but for China's sake.'' During the day, Joseph Lau Luen-hung admitted to mistaking the number of shares he had bought in Evergo International. His acquisition was of 35 million shares, not the 40 million reported on Tuesday. The tranche bought represents 4.28 per cent of Evergo's issued share capital, 0.61 per cent less than was declared on Tuesday. Accordingly, his grip on the holding vehicle stands at 74.39 per cent - or 0.61 per cent below the level that would ensure that the mandatory 25 per cent stayed in public hands. Thanks to the Henderson Investment purchase going through, Miramar Hotel was the busiest stock of the day on a turnover of $3.31 billion. The counter gained 30 cents to $16.50. Henderson snapped up a 34.78 per cent slice of the hotel group for $3.35 billion on June 19, topping the offers of CITIC Pacific and Cheung Kong. Henderson offered $17 a share and $10 a warrant. Manhattan Card, which has absorbed much of the activity since its listing last Friday, was the second busiest with $203.02 million turnover. The share dipped 2.5 cents to $2.85. Blue chips once again saw only modest activity: the third busiest stock, HSBC, rose 50 cents to $75 as $141.48 million worth of shares changed hands. Across the sub-indices, the drop was led by the property and commercial and industrial sectors. The day again belonged to the second and third liners, which somersaulted through the day with the same rapid fluctuations that have marked their progress during recent weeks. The biggest plunge was seen in Uniworld, which fell back 44.23 per cent to 5.8 cents with 1.01 billion shares changing hands. On Tuesday, the company said it would take up 154 million of the rights shares issued by associate Chuang's Consortium, funding the deal with a $270 million cash call of its own. Chuang's saw its share price dive 27.66 per cent to 34 cents. After climbing 24.53 per cent on Tuesday, Hongkong Worsted Mills dropped 9.09 per cent to close at $12. Far East Holdings, the subject of talks with two suitors - one of which is a mainland party - picked up the day's biggest gain of 18.28 per cent to end at $2.75.