HONG Kong investors yesterday rushed in where others feared to tread, snapping up stocks in a post-interest rate rise buying frenzy. Three months of pent-up buying demand was let loose on the market in a rush for stocks which saw the index surge 4.78 per cent to close 431.94 points higher at 9,476.64. ''It was an emotional day,'' said one broker, describing the frantic buying. For the first time in three months the market was free from the threat of an interest rate increase, and investors celebrated with the biggest buying party seen since February. The rate rise gave a green light to the territory's investors who scrambled to buy shares fearing they would miss out on the great rally. ''It marked a huge return of local retail speculators and buyers,'' said one broker. Volume was sharply higher, with $6.71 billion of shares traded, the highest level since late March. Turnover was 1.56 billion shares traded in 57,564 deals. Brokers said the interest was across the board, with local institutions and fund managers the heaviest buyers. There was also a good deal of convertible bond arbitrage activity as well as continued short-covering from foreigners. ''You cannot fight the tape. I think the market has turned and this is the real thing,'' said one American trader. However, institutional money from the United States, Europe and Japan is still absent from the market. But for the time being there seems to be enough domestic interest to sustain the market and the rally. Nomura analyst Gordon Crosbie-Walsh said Friday's meeting to discuss the airport issue was also taken as a good sign that an agreement might be closer. Head of Asian equity sales at Lehman Brothers, Gerrit Heyns, said the market was reacting to little bits of good news in the same way it reacted strongly to bad news just a few weeks ago. He said the rally could go higher from here, but it would be hard to sustain these levels because there was not a lot of support holding the market up. Traders expect further gains when the market opens today as retail investors step up their buying. Fund managers may continue to buy stock. Trading moved in a 276 point range from a low of 9,201.49 to a high of 9,477.33. The index opened sharply higher and continued to push through all barriers to close the morning session 349.39 points higher at 9,394.09. Trading in the afternoon saw the index continue to make gains and close at the top end of the trading range. Sun Hung Kai Property made a blistering attack on the board, gaining 8.7 per cent by the end of the day to emerge $4.25 higher at $53. It was the eighth best-performing stock overall. Hutchison Whampoa followed close behind with a 7.5 per cent gain to close $2.25 higher at $32.25, placing it 10th on the leader-board. Swire Pacific 'A' was also heavily traded with $219 million of shares traded. The counter gained 6.3 per cent to close $3.50 higher at $59. Cheung Kong put on 5.2 per cent to close $2 higher at $39.75. Utilities stocks continued to lag. These had been bid up heavily while fears of interest rates persisted because utilities are naturally defensive stocks. But as investors threw caution to the wind yesterday, utilities were left standing. Hong Kong Telecom managed a meagre 2.7 per cent increase to close 40 cents higher at $15.10. Hong Kong and China Gas put on 50 cents to close at $16.50. Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corp also failed to impress, lagging behind the index gain with a 4.1 per cent increase to close $3.50 higher at $87.