Worries over interest-rate rises and new listings add to investors' unsettled mood, say analysts Hong Kong stocks inched their way up in quieter trading yesterday as a swathe of new listings and fears of a global outbreak of bird flu sent shivers through the market. Other unfavourable factors such as a looming interest-rate rise and the futures expiry on Friday haunted investors and erased the 100-point plus gains in the benchmark Hang Seng Index earlier in the day, brokers said. Interest rate-sensitive property counters extended losses whereas mainland plays continued to see lacklustre trading, they added. The Hang Seng Index closed 22.53 points higher at 14,424.88, near its intraday low as the jittery sentiment erased almost the entire gain of 141.17 points earlier in the day. Turnover was 1.17 per cent lower at $16.42 billion. 'The stock market has got the flu, too,' said Louis Tse Ming-kwong, a director of VC CEF Brokerage. 'I can see very limited upside on the index until the middle of next month.' Brokers widely expected see-saw trading in the coming week, predicting the 33-constituent index to meander between 14,200 points and 14,500 points. Despite the widely welcomed news of Ben Bernanke succeeding Alan Greenspan as the Federal Reserve chairman, the United States is tipped to brace for a fresh round of interest-rate increases at a Fed meeting on Tuesday. Leading the fall in property counters was New World Development, which closed down 1.05 per cent to $9.45, taking its losses in the past three trading days to 2.25 per cent. Sun Hung Kai Properties fared a bit better, drifting 0.4 per cent lower at $74. Henderson Land dipped 0.28 per cent to $35.30 while Cheung Kong slipped 0.49 per cent to $81.5. Blue-chip banking stocks recouped part of their lost ground in the past few days with BOC the biggest gainer, jumping 0.35 per cent to $14.50. Bank of East Asia also gained, rising 0.22 per cent to close at $22.70. Hang Seng Bank climbed 0.2 per cent to $100.50 and its parent HSBC closed 0.17 per cent higher at $120.90. 'Although they closed a bit higher, their trading remained sluggish,' said Steve Cheng Ka-wah, associate director of Shenyin Wenguo Securities. 'There are lingering worries about the negative impact of rate rises on corporate lending, personal loans and mortgage lending.' Selling pressure on banking stocks, however, lingered in the wake of the imminent debut of China Construction Bank on the main board, a US$6 billion listing dubbed the world's biggest new share offering this year. Describing the pricing of the bank's share offering at $2.35, or near the top end of the indicative price range, as unimpressive, Mr Tse said the shares were traded at $2.37 to $2.375 in the grey market. 'There is uneasy feeling in the market, which shows investors fear they will get burnt on the first day trading of the bank,' he said. China Construction Bank is due to begin trading tomorrow. Mr Tse said liquidity of the stock market had become tight as a result of a spate of new listings including the US$3 billion issue of the Housing Authority's relaunched Link Reit property trust and mainland carmaker Dongfeng Motor's US$500 million issue. Apple juice maker China Haisheng Juice Holdings plans to raise $311 million and computer casing maker Ju Teng International Holdings will tap the market for $408 million. The H-share index barely moved yesterday, ending the day 3.02 points higher at 4,835.61. Bank of Communications dropped 1.52 per cent to $3.25, knocking almost 10 points off the index. Ping An Insurance fell 1.56 per cent to $12.65. H-share outperformers were Shanghai Electric, which rose 5.21 per cent to $2.525 and Weiqiao Textile, which added 3.31 per cent to $9.35.