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Investors streaming back


EXCUSES and more excuses was the tale of the Hong Kong stockmarket last week. Investors ran for cover at the slightest sign of trouble, even though most of it was anticipated. But they soon poured back into the market as a consolidation provided an opportunity to buy.

The Hang Seng Index closed on Friday at 7,422.98, down 27 points on the day and down 122 points on the week. Sales director at Cressvale Hong Kong John Gates believes there is more volatility in the offing this week.

''The market is certainly not going to move sideways. We could see further consolidation on the back of the economic problems in China. And I do not think the Sino-United States missile crisis is played out yet. At the same time, the Hong Kong Bank results on Tuesday could focus investors back on fundamentals.'' The week saw a market performance somewhat reminiscent of Tropical Storm Winona which approached the territory last week. First, storm warnings were hoisted as the consolidation looked to be well and truly setting in as the Hang Seng Index barometer plunged 157 points on Monday, and another 120 points over the following two days.

But just as investors battened down the hatches and prepared to tie themselves to the nearest broker, the mercury climbed back up 183 points on Thursday and the storm fizzled out like a damp squib on Friday ahead of the holiday weekend and the expiry of the August futures.

There is a nagging question of whether the market is just refusing to see sense. Concerns over allegations of corruption in China, news that the banks will tighten up on mortgage loans in the face of an ever-perspiring property market, and another set ofpoor results, this time from airline Cathay Pacific, all conspired to shake investor confidence - for all of three days.

Or, for once, are investors convinced that fundamentals will prevail, and that a sneeze is just a little summer hay-fever rather than the onset of flu.

The news that inflation in the major Chinese cities was averaging about 23 per cent last month must give cause for thought, as did news of US sanctions against China. But with HSBC Holdings looking set to announce bumper interim results after the holidays, refreshed and bronzed buyers may feel more enthusiastic.

Nobody seems to want to be out of this market, whatever dark clouds may hang ominously on the horizon. After all, when the market has jumped almost 32 per cent this year, does anybody dare miss the bus?