STOCKS drifted down in thin trading yesterday as major players stayed away on fears of an interest rate rise. The Robert Fleming index plunged 115 points to 9,392 in late overnight trading in London after the US Federal Reserve announced it wanted to raise interest rates again. The action will put strong pressure on Hong Kong stocks when the market opens today. The Hang Seng Index dropped 29.22 points yesterday to close off 0.31 per cent at 9,506.84, with volume slipping back to touch the year's low as shares worth just $2.65 billion changed hands. Yesterday share turnover also reflected the uncertainty, with a total of 533.48 million shares traded in 23,744 deals. One theme starting to come through is concern over property counters, which will be most affected by an interest rate rise. Brokerages said their clients were staying out of property sector stocks until they were more certain of the direction of home prices. Anecdotal reports from real estate agents suggest a drop in flat prices of five to 10 per cent and a decline in transaction volumes by as much as 60 per cent since the beginning of the month. While it is too early to proclaim the end of the residential property boom, there is enough uncertainty in the market to lead speculators to all but halt their buying. As public pressure on the Government mounts to release under-used land for re-development further stress will be put on developers. Seventy per cent of flats built last year are still unoccupied, which indicates that speculation is driving the market. The feeling now is that it has moved too far from justifiable levels. Last week Baring Securities research director Alan Butler Henderson warned of the fragility of a property market fuelled by paper profits from stock markets. With property stocks still 50 per cent higher than last September's levels, there is certainly room for a correction. Major developers felt the pinch yesterday as investors sold down their holdings. The property sub-index lost 1.28 per cent, making it the biggest losing Hang Seng group. Sino Land, which had the dubious distinction of paying the highest prices at the Government land auctions, saw 1.7 per cent cut off its share price yesterday, a day when the Hang Seng Index fell by about a sixth as much. The counter dropped 15 cents to close at $8.50, with $32.9 million worth of shares traded. Henderson Land fell $1 to $42.75 with $39 million of shares traded. The company will announce its interim net profit tomorrow. Hysan Development dropped 40 cents to $24.30. Cheung Kong was off 50 cents to $39.50 but Hutchison Whampoa gained 50 cents to $33.50. Normally the two stocks move in tandem. Utilities continued to make ground as investors return to a stable investment in uncertain times. China Light and Power gained 25 cents to $44.25 while Hong Kong Electric put on 20 cents to close at $23.30. CITIC Pacific was the biggest loser among the blue chips, dropping $1 to $22.80. This follows Friday's placing of $166 million shares worth $3.58 billion to finance the acquisition of key tunnel projects and properties. While it was understandable that the market would take some time to digest such a large placement, brokers said the sell-off was overdue, especially because all the shares were placed at $23. The market traded in a narrow 153-point range of between 9,415.53 and 9,568.27. After spiking up after the opening, a sell-off ensued with the index dropping 120 points to the day's low before closing the morning session at 9,438.44. In the afternoon the index moved up slightly higher in weak trading before the close.