Property and shipping stocks lead a 58-point decline, but institutional investors step in to narrow losses The Hang Seng Index's five-day winning streak ended with a whimper as property and shipping stocks led the benchmark index in a 58.49 point, or 0.42 per cent, drop to 13,814.58 points yesterday. Traders said institutional investors with an interest in China Shenhua Energy's forthcoming initial public offering helped narrow losses by selective buying of blue chips. 'I wouldn't call it painting the tape,' said one trader. 'But [institutional investors] certainly have an interest making the index look as rosy as possible. 'As long as there is no major news, they can quite easily keep things afloat,' he added. Index heavyweight China Mobile fell 1.22 per cent on profit-taking to $28.40. The stock had risen to a 3?-year high on Wednesday on upgrades by several brokerages. 'China Mobile had been overbought in the past week,' said Andrew To Koong-hung, a research director at Tai Fook Securities. 'It is now trading close to 14 times earnings - too expensive compared with H shares, which are only trading at an average of about 11 times,' he noted. Container terminal operator Cosco Pacific extended losses from the previous session, dropping 3.1 per cent to $14.05, while China Merchant shed 2.81 per cent to close at $13.80. Mr To said escalating trade tensions between China, the European Union and the United States prompted traders to offload ports and shipping counters on worries international traffic would slow once new import quotas on Chinese goods became effective. Fashion retailer Esprit was the biggest loser among the blue chips, shedding 3.18 per cent to $53.25. 'Esprit continues to wilt under the depreciation of the euro, which dropped to US$1.22,' said Francis Lun Sheung-nim, general manager of Fulbright Securities. Property stocks were hit by continued anxiety over rising rates and a forecast by Merrill Lynch that prices could plunge 20 per cent to 25 per cent by the end of next year. Sun Hung Kai Properties lost 1.33 per cent to $74 after Merrill Lynch downgraded the stock to 'sell' from 'neutral' and Hang Lung Properties dropped 1.33 per cent or 15 cents to $11.05. Alex Tang Yee-yuk, research director at Core Pacific-Yamaichi International, said property counters might rebound this month. The market had largely digested the reality of interest rate rises and sentiment had been reinforced by strong sales at the Royal Green residential project, jointly developed by Henderson Land and SEA, last weekend, Mr Tang said. Banking giant HSBC was unchanged at $124 while CNOOC added 0.59 per cent to $4.25. Several traders said blue-chip losses yesterday were curbed by institutional investors determined to keep the index above 13,800. 'They want to create a positive mood in the overall market,' said one trader, citing forthcoming offerings from China Shenhua Energy and Bank of Communications. 'Who would want to subscribe ... if the market is going down?' This could also explain gradually improving turnover this week, which came to $16.26 billion yesterday, compared with average daily turnover of $11.5 billion last week. H shares continued downwards, shadowing a second day of losses on the Shanghai A-Share Index. Battery maker BYD was the biggest loser among the H shares, sliding 4.58 per cent to $16.65.