Buying support limits extent of blue-chip losses after record oil prices leave Wall St bruised Hong Kong's leading stocks finished slightly lower yesterday, but brokers said they were encouraged by the amount of buying support on a day when oil prices soared and Asian markets came under pressure over concerns about a potential flight out of risky assets. The Hang Seng Index fell more than 100 points at opening - in line with a 1 per cent drop on Wall Street on Wednesday - but then spent the rest of the morning session edging gradually higher. In the afternoon it traded largely sideways. 'There is good support at 13,700, and today Cheung Kong and Hutchison both rebounded quickly when [the Hang Seng Index] reached that level,' said Kingston Lin, an associate director at Prudential Brokerage. He projected the index would continue to hover in a range between 13,700 and 13,950 in the next few sessions as many investors remained cautious ahead of an expected rise in Hong Kong lending rates. It is widely expected that interest rates in the United States will be lifted for the seventh time since June last year at the Federal Reserve's monetary policy meeting on Tuesday. 'If Hong Kong banks decide to hike by more than 25 basis points, there is a chance we will break lower and head towards 13,500,' Mr Lin said. The Hang Seng Index closed down 0.11 per cent, or 14.53 points, at 13,817.99, having bounced off an intraday low of 13,699.71. The H-share index rose 0.14 per cent, or 6.93 points, to 4,959.81, due largely to the performance of Sinopec. The oil producer and refiner added 1.5 per cent to $3.37 as crude oil prices rose towards $57 per barrel. The oil price broke above that level after the market closed, hitting an early evening high of $57.50. Offshore producer CNOOC was the top-performing blue chip, with a 1.74 per cent rise to $4.37. However, the mainland's largest oil company, PetroChina, erased a 1 per cent intraday gain and finished unchanged at $4.92. The latter has had a strong run so far this year - up 18.6 per cent - and brokers said investors were securing some of those gains after the company reported a record profit for last year. Investors were also taking profits on Cathay Pacific after it gained 4.9 per cent on Wednesday when the South China Morning Post reported that the airline was in talks about a possible takeover of Hong Kong Dragon Airlines as part of a wider share swap agreement between its parent, Swire Pacific, and Air China. Cathay and Swire later confirmed the talks but were vague about the intended outcome. Some took that as a denial of takeover plans but several brokers said yesterday the announcement seemed to leave the door open for the parties to work together. They noted that the shares fell only slightly compared with the previous day's gains. Cathay finished 0.67 per cent lower at $14.90, Swire dropped 0.75 per cent to $66.25 and Air China gave up 1.71 per cent to $2.87. China National Aviation Co - which holds more than 40 per cent of Dragon Air and is controlled by the same parent as Air China - fell 3.33 per cent to $1.74 after having rallied 11.11 per cent on Wednesday. First Shanghai Securities strategist Linus Yip said the market was driven by day-trading. This was particularly evident in the futures market, where daily trading volumes in the Hang Seng Index futures picked up even as the open interest fell. HSBC saw active trading in the morning but ended unchanged at $126. Hutchison was also steady, at $67.50, while Cheung Kong added 0.7 per cent to $71.50. Some bargain hunting among the developers also pushed Sun Hung Kai Properties 0.34 per cent higher to $73. Yue Yuen Industrial, the world's largest sports shoe maker, fell 1.84 per cent to $21.30 after it said first-quarter net profit fell 17.9 per cent as rising raw material costs offset stronger sales. Guangshen Railway, which provides train services between Guangzhou and Shenzhen, was the best performing H share, with a 6.09 per cent gain to $3.05. After the market closed, the company said net profit grew 10.9 per cent last year on heavier traffic.