Futures traders drive early gains but benchmark ends only slightly ahead as HSBC results are awaited Leading stocks edged higher as July futures contracts expired yesterday, with long traders at one stage nudging the Hang Seng Index towards 15,000 points, triggering profit taking. The benchmark index rallied 97.85 points to 14,899.71 in the morning session but ran out of steam to finish at 14,813.32 - up only 11.46 points, or 0.08 per cent. Turnover rose to $23.55 billion from $18.95 billion on Wednesday. 'The long futures traders pushed the index to a high level for contracts clearing and that's why the index soared in the morning,' said Ben Kwong Man-bun of KGI Asia Securities. 'However, investors are tending to stay on the sidelines awaiting HSBC's half-year result and this dragged down the index.' The July index futures contract gained 37 points to 14,852, representing a 38-point premium to the underlying index. Traders are looking for further upside with the August futures contracts ending 15 points higher at 14,835. China's largest mobile service provider, China Mobile, gained 0.97 per cent to $31.10 after the Chinese regulator denied it was due to announce a restructuring plan for the telecommunications industry. China Unicom fell after a government denial that the company would be split up and joined with a fixed-line provider. It dropped 0.72 per cent to $6.90 after a 2.96 per cent gain on Wednesday. China Telecom, the mainland's largest fixed-line provider, failed to continue a 3.48 per cent increase on Wednesday, remaining unchanged at $2.975. Property stocks rose for the second day on prospects of a pace-setting $2 billion-plus Lane Crawford sale by Wheelock. New World Development surged 1.97 per cent to $10.35, Henderson Land added 0.51 per cent to $39.40, Cheung Kong rose 0.48 per cent to $84, while Hang Lung Properties and Sino Land remained unchanged at $12.25 and $9.05, respectively. But Wheelock dropped 0.36 per cent to $13.55, after jumping 3.4 per cent on Wednesday. Brokers said HSBC's interim result would set the trend for the index. 'The market is already over-bought. If HSBC posts a lower than expected result, a market consolidation will likely follow and vice versa,' said Kenny Tang Sing-hing, at Tung Tai Securities. The global banking giant fell for a second day, dropping 0.63 per cent to $126.20. Subsidiary Hang Seng Bank also was down, by 0.19 per cent to $107.30. Bank of East Asia declined 0.21 per cent to $23.70. MTR rose 0.62 per cent to a record high of $16.20 since its listing on October 5, 2000. The H-share index finished lower at 5,194.34, falling 10.4 points, or 0.2 per cent, driven mainly by the loss of index heavyweight PetroChina. China's largest oil producer dropped 0.74 per cent to $6.75 after reaching a record high of $6.80 on Wednesday as oil prices remained flat. The counter alone pulled the index down 9.82 points. CNOOC and Sinopec remained unchanged at $5 and $3.325, respectively. Insurance stocks outperformed other sectors. PICC Property and Casualty was the biggest index gainer, jumping 3.8 per cent to $1.91. Ping An Insurance added 0.79 per cent to $12.80, while China Life Insurance remained unchanged at $5.70. Tai Fook Securities research director Alex To said blue-chip stocks were seriously over-bought and he preferred buying H-share laggards such as Sinopec. Meanwhile, footwear products manufacturer Symphony tapped the market for about $349.6 million through a rights issue. Symphony resumed trading yesterday, and the share price tumbled 14.54 per cent to $1.41 on turnover of $3.08 million. The company planned rights issues of 554.9 million to 592.5 million shares at 63 cents each, allotting one nil-paid rights share for every two existing shares. The rights issues' price represents a discount of 61.81 per cent to the closing price of $1.65 on Monday. Symphony intends to use about half of the net proceeds to expand its production capacity.