Leading stocks edged slightly higher yesterday, but trading activity quickly died down as uncertainty over the direction of the US stock market and China's currency policy kept investors on the sidelines. Turnover was a paltry $11.06 billion, the third-lowest daily trading volume this year. Newcomer Bauhaus International provided some excitement to an otherwise lacklustre market, with 92.9 per cent of the 91 million shares it issued before listing changing hands. Its price performance did not quite match expectations, brokers said. The fashion retailer, which saw the retail portion of its $113.7 million initial public offering 599 times subscribed, hit an intraday high of $1.44 just 20 minutes into the trading day. Retail investors then moved in to take profits. The counter closed 5.6 per cent higher at $1.32. With the peak only 15.2 per cent above the $1.25 offer price and high interest costs for investors who bought on margin, few would have made money on the stock's first day of trading, said Steven Leung Wai-yuen, a director at UOB Kay Hian Hong Kong. But the debutant did outperform the Hang Seng Index, which traded in a narrow 56-point range throughout the day before closing up 0.2 per cent, or 28.48 points, at 13,968.28. The H-share index fell a modest 1.43 points to 4,717.94. A sharp drop in oil futures in New York, followed by a slide to below US$50 per barrel during Asian trading, helped keep H shares afloat. China Southern Airlines and China Eastern Airlines gained 2.88 per cent and 2.14 per cent, respectively, on hopes for lower fuel costs. China Petroleum & Chemical Corp added 0.81 per cent to $3.125, while PetroChina was unchanged at $4.875. Sinopec Yizheng Chemical Fibre was the worst performing H share, with a 6.72 per cent drop to $1.25 after it said regulators were investigating a possible misappropriation of funds by an employee. Property stocks rose on talk the government may resume regular land auctions. Cheung Kong rose 0.7 per cent to $72.25 and Henderson Land Development added 0.56 per cent to $36. China Unicom finished up 0.81 per cent at 6.25 on speculation the stock may be included in the Morgan Stanley Capital International Index series following an annual review due to be announced today. Sandy Lee of Nomura International expects 28 new stocks will be included in the MSCI index, of which eight are China-related. Other potential beneficiaries, she said, included private chips Global Bio-Chem Technology, Chaoda Modern Agriculture and China Mengniu Dairy, as well as China Power International and China Netcom. There was no clear performance trend in these stocks yesterday. Lenovo and Wheelock, which have underperformed this week on speculation they may be dropped from the Hang Seng Index following a review to be announced after the market closes today, added 3 per cent and 1.72 per cent each, respectively. Meanwhile, Shanghai Electric, which had a weak trading debut two weeks ago, climbed for the sixth day in seven, closing at a record high of $1.79. Yesterday's 1.7 per cent gain left it 5.29 per cent above its launch price. Retail investors remained cautious towards China Special Steel's initial public offering. When the public tranche of the offer - valued at up to $333 million - closed at noon yesterday, brokers described the order flow as weak. Yesterday's second newcomer, Sandmartin International, finished 3.7 per cent higher at $1.12 after some late buying by one of its sponsors.