Optimistic investors push up futures

OPTIMISM returned to the futures market early yesterday as investors realised the market was oversold.

The sudden emergence of top economists saying the Hong Kong market was still a good buy, with value for money, factored into the consolidation.

Hang Seng futures out-performed the Hang Seng Index, putting on 500 points to close at 9,490, a 24.47-point premium to the cash market.

The Hang Seng Index was no slouch, staging a big comeback to rise 453.36 points to close at 9,465.53.

Total number of lots was 29,159. Open interests in March stood at 27,869.

News of Jardine Matheson's decision to delist from the Hong Kong stock exchange by the end of the year caused a slip in an otherwise bullish market.

Brokers said the market had expected the news, therefore Jardine's announcement did not have a great impact on trading.

Hot on the heels of that announcement was the rumour that Jardine Strategic Holdings would de-list.

The futures opened trading at 8,990 and started a steady climb towards the morning high of 9,460 until overseas selling on the back of the Jardine Matheson rumours caused the index to tumble to 9,170.

Those rumours were confirmed after the market's noontime close.

Jardine Fleming said the resulting tailspin was mainly caused by stop-loss orders.

The futures, however, found support at the 8,800-level, from where it rebounded on strong European buying to send the index higher.

Fimat Futures said the market found the bottom of its short-term trend at the beginning of the week.

Fimat said: ''On an oscillators point of view, the Hang Seng market was oversold . . . a bullish correction was predictable.

''Besides the rise of the last few days, the volume on the Hang Seng futures market is also remarkable.

''Usually, technical consolidations are without real activity on futures and options market.'' Fimat said the key level of the market was now 9,700 points, which corresponds to the top of the short-term trend.

''If the rise continues [today], the spot index will have to break this resistance with a good volume in order to be out of the bearish trend,'' Fimat said.

The market's direction could well be thrown in limbo again following the announcement of a rise in US short-term interests rates.

In a much anticipated move, the Federal Open Market Committee said it had agreed to push up the cost of short-term borrowing by sanctioning a quarter per cent increase in the key Federal funds - the rate banks charge each other for overnight loans - to 3.5 per cent.

This is the second time rates have risen this year.

It underscored the Fed's determination to keep inflation down now that the US economy is on a firm footing.