AN anticipated rise in US interest rates yesterday intensified the market's downward momentum to drive the Hang Seng index to below 9,000 for the first time since last Wednesday. It sagged 207.95 points, or 2.26 per cent, to close at 8,996.93 - the lowest quote in the past seven trading days. However, toward the close of trade, bearish sentiment ran out of steam as the index turned round from the intra-day low of 8,834.69 to spring up by about 160 points, as bargain hunters moved in. Turnover for the day was a buoyant $6.76 billion. Sassoon Securities assistant general manager Michael Ng Wai-ming said the rise in US interest rates augmented other downward forces in the market. The Long-term yield curve in the US climbed on Thursday night to its highest level since late August, as the yield on the 30-year Treasury bond rose to 6.21 per cent from 6.11 per cent. ''The increase is not that big, but investors feared that would just be the start of a rising trend,'' said Mr Ng. Blue chips failed to perform in London on Thursday night, and further profit taking in local trading continued to strain the market. ''When it opened, we already expected a fall because of local stocks' losses in London on Thursday night,'' said OCBC Securities senior manager Philip Leung. European selling orders flooded the market in the shortage of buy orders, he said. ''Fund managers, mostly from Europe, were also dumping their blue chip shares in favour of warrants for more cash,'' said Mr Leung. ''They will exercise their warrants to buy shares again when the market has sagged enough for bargain hunting,'' he added. Futures trading was the main force dictating the cash market movement yesterday, according to Salomon Brothers institutional salesman Julian Lees. However, the spot index made a strenuous recoil after reaching its lowest level shortly before 3 pm. ''It was a strong technical rebound. There was support at around the 8,700 and 8,800 levels,'' said Mr Ng. ''Up to that time, the index had fallen steadily by about 900 points since Wednesday. Bargain hunters inevitably began to move in,'' said Mr Ng. During the correction period, investors who had shortened their futures earlier on were squaring their positions to reduce exposure to risks during the weekend, said Mr Leung. He added that some investors, who might have caught wind of the positive news about Hutchison in the last half-hour of trading before its official announcement, started snapping up counters in bargain hunting to push the index up. It was announced that Hutchison Whampoa would make a provision of HK$1.42 billion for losses of its UK telecommunications business incurred from the closure of its Rabbit telepoint service and the sale of its mobile data operation. Yesterday's trading brought the index back to below last Thursday's level, knocking off the 600-point gains made between last Thursday's close to Tuesday's close.