INVESTORS are increasingly betting on a breakout from the tunnel trading range in which the Hang Seng Index is boring. The high volumes and narrowing trading range at the end of last week - between 9,870 and 10,000 in index futures and 9,840 and 10,000 in the cash - are seen as unsustainable. Many investors in options have been exploiting the opportunity to buy up these instruments at what is regarded as the last chance for the cheap index options ahead of the autumn rally and rising volatility. On Wall Street, a major leader of sentiment in Hong Kong equities, the lower-than-expected unemployment numbers for July allayed inflation fears, but new economic slowdown concerns emerged. The Dow Jones industrial average slipped 16 points to 3,885. The neurotic equity investor sentiment in the United States suddenly forgot inflation and found earnings worries. If this sentiment persists, it will be difficult for the Hang Seng Index to make any headway on its own this week, as there is little fundamentally that can provide the momentum needed to again challenge 10,000. In the US, the employment report came after retailers had reported mixed sales. A fall in the dollar on Friday, as investors wrote into their outlook a possible economic slowdown, quashed any optimism in stocks coming out of the jobless figures. Given this consolidation in US stocks, that could be the main theme of trading this week, after rising 166 points, or 4.4 per cent, between August 23 and August 30. With no foreign drive pushing domestic buying sentiment, the Hang Seng Index might slump back into the 9,200 to 9,700 trading range established in July and August. A new test of 10,000 would require turnover in excess of $5.5 billion, more likely up around $6 billion to be anything like the challenges last week. Fierce profit-taking at and above the 10,000-level could be expected, with firm support for the index from investors keen to buy selected stocks on weakness. These include Cheung Kong, Hutchison Whampoa, Sun Hung Kai Properties and New World Development. On the Hong Kong corporate reporting calendar, there are few significant numbers due. Hopewell Holdings and Consolidated Electric Power Asia are to report, but their impact on overall market sentiment, unless the results are really bad, is not expected to be huge. According to the Estimate Directory , investors can expect to see 20 per cent growth at Hopewell, to $2.44 billion, with earnings per share up by the same percentage, to 57 cents. In the US, investors will be looking at the government-produced economic data more closely than before. One group will be looking for inflation signs, while others will be scanning for confirmation of an economic slowdown. Either way, whatever happens, one group is going to be pleased and the other unhappy. Tomorrow, the US Commerce Department issues numbers on housing completions. This figure is normally not given much attention, but a major slowdown might be read as a further signal of a slumping economy. In May, it was up 6.7 per cent and in June down 8.2 per cent. No forecast is given for July. On Wednesday, the US Labour Department reports on productivity costs. In the first quarter, they rose 2.9 per cent and in the second were down 1.2 per cent. On Thursday, Labour issues numbers for initial weekly jobless claims. The number forecast by Bloomberg for the August 28 figure is 324,000, up 2,000. The number for August 21 was 325,000, down 2,000. On the same day, the Federal Reserve will issue figures on consumer credit. May's number was $11.5 billion, in June $10.9 billion and, according to Bloomberg surveys, the July figure was expected to be $8.6 billion. Of key importance to market sentiment in the following week will be the producer price index. The Bloomberg survey said the change would be 0.4 per cent on finished goods and 0.2 per cent, excluding food and energy.