Leading stocks fluctuated in a narrow range yesterday and finished largely flat as investors digested the 209.79-point jump in the previous session and took some profit before the weekend. The buying of H shares also cooled, although metals stocks such as Aluminum Corp of China and Jiangxi Copper continued to rack up solid gains amid optimism demand for these materials will remain supported by the reconstruction efforts in the United States. The Hang Seng Index finished 2.73 points lower at 15,428.52 after hovering between 15,394.68 and 15,470.51 during the session. This meant the index tested neither the support near the 15,300 level or the 41/2-year high of 15,508.57 that was hit on August 16. However, the fact that the market did not give up hardly any of the gains from Thursday's session meant the index was able to book a gain of 8.64 per cent in the third quarter - its strongest quarterly performance since the fourth quarter of 2003. With an 8.42 per cent gain year to date, the Hong Kong market is still lagging most other markets in the region, including Tokyo, which is up 18.15 per cent, and South Korea, which has rallied 36.29 per cent. Among the major markets, Taiwan was the worse performer with a 0.34 per cent drop. Analysts say this laggard status should add to Hong Kong's attraction in the coming three months when several large initial public offerings are expected to put the spotlight back on the territory. 'It's natural to see profit taking ahead of the weekend, but most people believe October should be good as seen by the fact that [index] futures are trading at a premium,' said Kenny Tang Sing-hing, a research manager with Tung Tai Securities. The public offerings of China Construction Bank and Link Reit should help push the entire market higher, Mr Tang said. 'The consolidation won't last too long,' agreed UOB Kay Hian Hong Kong director Steven Leung Wai-yuen, who said the presales of new flats over the weekend in the wake of the high bidding at this week's land auction could be key for next week's performance. 'If they are still good, they should trigger more buying of the property developers and that will help the market break new highs next week,' he said. If the index goes through 15,509 points, it could rally to 16,000 'very quickly' as there are a lot of stop-loss positions which will be triggered around the previous high. Yesterday, property counters were mixed. Cheung Kong added 0.29 per cent at $87.60, while Sun Hung Kai fell 0.19 per cent. Sino Land, which led the consortium that won two sites at the land auction, rose 0.53 per cent to $9.45. China Mobile, which finished at a record high of $38.25 on Thursday, fell 0.65 per cent to $38 and China Unicom dropped 0.77 per cent to $6.45. Lenovo was the top blue-chip performer with a 2.74 per cent rise to $3.75. China Oilfield Services led the gains among H shares, adding 5.79 per cent to $3.20, as crude oil prices remained firm above US$65.50 per barrel. China Petroleum & Chemical rose 1.43 per cent to $3.55, but PetroChina and CNOOC were both unchanged following strong gains on Thursday. Jiangxi Copper rose 2.34 per cent to $4.375 and Chalco was up 2.98 per cent at $4.90. The H-share index finished up 9.07 points, or 0.17 per cent, at 5,227.28, which brought its total gains in the third quarter to 7.51 per cent - slightly below the 8.36 per cent rise in the third quarter of last year. The index is up 10.25 per cent year to date. Retail stocks were also strong ahead of the week-long National Day holiday in the mainland. Cosmetics retailer Sa Sa International jumped 6.11 per cent to $3.475 and jewellery manufacturer and retailer Chow Sang Sang topped out a week of solid gains with a 3.97 per cent rise to $3.925. China Yurun Food, which starts trading on Monday, is expected to see a strong debut after the retail tranche of its $1.53 billion share offer was 156 times covered.