Strength of US dollar boosts caution and saps the market's ability to rise for sixth consecutive day The stock market fell for a sixth consecutive day yesterday - its longest decline in nine months. Traders said sharp falls in Macau stocks dampened market sentiment. The Hang Seng Index came off an early gain of up to 118 points and closed 22.14 points, or 0.16 per cent, lower, at 13,509.25 points. The blue-chip index has fallen 728.17 points, or 5.11 per cent, over the past six trading days. Consecutive falls were recorded between April 14 and April 22 last year, a period that saw the Hang Seng Index plunge 864.11 points, or 6.63 per cent, in seven days. 'It is inevitable to see the market continue to remain weak because there are no signs of the US dollar weakening in the short term,' said Ben Kwong Man-bun, a director at KGI Asia. Mr Kwong said investors were cautious about re-entering the market before the United States Federal Reserve's meeting next month, which will discuss the possibility of an interest rate rise, and therefore any meaningful rebound in the near term was unlikely. He expects the benchmark index to dip further to between 13,200 and 13,000 before it bottoms out. Selling pressure remained heavy with $19.46 billion worth of shares changing hands on trading by hedge funds, brokers said. A total of 120,038 HSI futures open contracts were accumulated after the addition of 27,284 trades yesterday. February HSI futures fell 92 points to 13,445, indicating that the bears are still dominating the market. Swire Pacific suffered the biggest drop among index stocks, losing 2.01 per cent, followed by Cheung Kong Infrastructure's 1.88 per cent dip. However, property stocks such as Henderson Land and Sun Hung Kai Properties edged up 0.54 per cent and 0.35 per cent, respectively, while HSBC added 0.39 per cent. Standard Chartered's Hong Kong shares edged down $2.50 to $137 after it resumed trading following the announcement of its $25.74 billion acquisition of Korea First Bank. However, its shares were up by more than 1 per cent in London overnight following the placement of 117.9 million new shares at GBP9.2 ($134.49) each, earning GBP1.08 billion to help finance the deal. According to market sources, the book was almost nearly 2.5 times covered. Despite credit research house Calyon's optimism on a possible tie-up between PCCW and China Network Communications Group, expected to be announced tomorrow, shares of both PCCW and the fixed-line carrier's Hong Kong listed arm fell yesterday. China Netcom was down 35 cents at $10.85 while PCCW shares dipped five cents to settle at $4.875. Macau stocks continued to plunge, with Premium Land, Emperor (China Concept) Investments and K Wah Construction plummeting by more than 36 per cent yesterday. Emperor China's overnight announcement that New World chief Cheng Yu-tung was in talks to buy into the company failed to boost its shares. The H-share index dipped 2.08 points to 4,545.85.