Investors take profits

PROFIT-TAKING yesterday nudged the Hang Seng Index down 26.1 points to 7,422.98.

Investors once more stayed on the sidelines as the market traded on moderate turnover of $3.51 billion.

Overseas buyers came into the market after lunch, helping to cushion the fall.

Brokers said there was active trading in the morning as investors took the opportunity to lock in profits following the index rise of 183.5 points on Thursday.

August index futures fell nine points to close at a 21.98-point discount to the cash market.

Total volume for the spot month was 9,708 contracts and the open interest was 20,930.

The market dropped 18 points during the first 15 minutes of trading. It continued to fall for most of the morning, losing 60.83 points by the noon close. It hit an intra-day low of 7,371.06.

When trading resumed in the afternoon, buyers returned to help the index regain some lost ground to end 18 points up at the intra-day high.

HSBC Holdings, which will release its interim results on Tuesday, was the most heavily traded stock yesterday on a turnover of $266.72 million.

The stock, which went through a roller-coaster week because of arbitrage between London and Hong Kong, fell 50 cents to $83.

Nomura Research analyst Richard Fairgrieve said if the results were disappointing, they would send the index into the same sharp decline that Hang Seng Bank caused last week when it released lower-than-expected results.

The HSBC subsidiary yesterday fell 50 cents to $55.

The finance sector was the worst performing, sliding 0.66 per cent to 7,268.74.

Behind it, the utilities sub-index fell 0.39 per cent to 8,755.87.

Outperforming the main index, the property sub-index slipped 0.12 per cent to 11,335.48 and the commercial and industrial sector fell 0.23 per cent to 5,585.29.

Property continued to attract attention in spite of measures taken this week by Hongkong Bank and Hang Seng Bank to crack down on mass residential property speculation.

Cheung Kong was up 10 cents to $27.90, Hongkong Land fell 20 cents to $17.20 while Hutchison Whampoa gained 10 cents to $22.70.

Sun Hung Kai Properties gained 25 cents to $38.

In the utilities, Hongkong Telecom fell 20 cents to $12 on profit-taking following its rise this week.

Swire Pacific dipped $1.25 to $36.75 after the company announced on Thursday that interim profits had fallen 17 per cent to $1.8 billion.

On Wednesday, 51.8 per cent owned Cathay Pacific reported disappointing results.

The aviation counter yesterday gained 10 cents to $10.430.

Hong Kong and Shanghai Hotels was up 45 cents to $7.20 following its 11.9 per cent rise in net income to $178 million for the six months to June 30.

While results are still providing a focus for market activity, there was also considerable action in mainland-controlled stocks due to greater interest among US investors.

Shanghai Petrochemical climbed six cents to $1.97 on a turnover of $144.5 million.

Tsingtao Brewery closed unchanged at $5.60 as the A shares started trading in Shanghai.

Kader Investment was the star of the day, soaring 39.5 per cent, $1.98, to $7.10 on the second highest turnover of $220.39 million.

A major shareholder of the group said yesterday it had arranged to place out 10.3 million shares representing 9.5 per cent of Kader's existing issued share capital.

Kader directors also said they were considering buying a stake in an unlisted company which would issue a prospectus shortly on the listing of new shares.

Herald Holdings, which announced a 17 per cent profit climb to $94.4 million, rose nine cents to $2. The results were slightly under analysts' estimates, according to The Estimate Directory.

Trading in City Chiu Chow Holdings was suspended yesterday pending an announcement.