Hang Seng Index
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Finance and utilities hit

FINANCE and utility stocks were hardest hit yesterday as the Hang Seng Index retreated almost 170 points, while many conglomerates, which had lagged the market during its recent spectacular surge, showed gains.

Selling took the index down 169.72 points, or 1.88 per cent, to 8,861.41 on a turnover of $9.04 billion.

The high turnover led brokers to believe the two-week record-breaking run that took the index up 19.6 per cent in 13 days was over, with buying falling off.

Sellers having gained the upper hand on a day of heavy trade was considered significant.

Of the Hang Seng Index sub-indices, finance was worst hit, falling 2.7 per cent to 7,657.96 points.

Utilities lost 2.12 per cent to 11,206.51 points and property counters dropped 2.09 per cent to 14,010.34 points.

Commerce and industry bucked the trend, gaining 0.92 per cent to 6,826.53 points. Jardine Strategic rose 10 cents to $31 on a turnover of $159.15 million.

Hong Kong & China Gas rose 40 cents to $17.70 on a turnover of $243.97 million.

Hong Kong Aircraft Engineering Co was up $2 to $47 on a turnover of $21 million, Cathay Pacific Airways moved up 10 cents to $12.40 on a turnover of $203 million and Great Eagle added five cents to $4.275 on a turnover of $48.2 million.

There was early caution as the index fell 78 points in the first minutes of trading.

A recovery took the index back to 8,990, but selling set in again, taking the index to 8,875.02 by 11.30 am.

Bargain-hunting helped the index back to 8,921.51 at the lunchtime close, still down 109.62 points on Monday's close.

During this time the October index future was being traded by brave investors at significant premiums. In the early part of the morning session it was at 9,100 points, until buyers gave up trying to encourage the spot market, and parity was almost reached ahead of 11.30 am.

At above 8,900 the future recovered its footing, while the spot market kept falling. At lunchtime the October future was about 50 points ahead of the spot.

In the afternoon session, the spot market saw further tense trading, despite the heavy volumes.

The Hang Seng Index slowly lost points towards the close, despite valiant bids by the futures to turn trading around.

By the close of trade, the October future was at 8,875, only 14 points ahead of the spot, after a turnover of 14,762 lots. Open interest was 19,469, up 614.

Total futures market turnover was 16,954 lots, with an open interest at 24,872, up 1,544.

The biggest traded stock of the day was HSBC, which fell $2.50, or 2.78 per cent, to $87.50 in $696.1 million of trading.

Jardine Matheson fell $1 to $72.50 on a turnover of $443.58 million.

Hongkong Telecom was down 50 cents to $16 on a turnover of $522.1 million, taking 32 points off the index.

In the end, profit-takers got the better of the territory's telecommunications monopoly supplier.

Sellers first appeared in the stock in London overnight on Friday. Strong buying reduced the loss to just 20 cents on Monday, but the buyers were overcome yesterday.

Allied Group was down 16 cents to $1.26 on a turnover of 81.99 million shares, the biggest volume of the day. News that Li Ka-shing was taking a stake broke in the morning ahead of the opening of trading.

Over the last five or six working days the stock has seen heavy turnover, indicating that the stake of about 15.45 per cent was taken in the marketplace.

Allied Properties was off 13 cents to $1.69, with 32.13 million shares traded.

Shanghai Petrochemical continued to see heavy trading, falling five cents to $2.125, with 33.83 million shares traded.

Among the best performers was Hon Kwok Land, up 25 cents to $3.025 on a turnover of $29.84 million.

New listing Mei Ah International was up five cents to $1.78 on a turnover of $52.78 million.

South China Morning Post rose 20 cents to $4.60 on a turnover of $8.05 million.