US rates spectre still haunting local trade

HONG KONG is heading for a week of dull trade as buyers looking for clues to the direction of the US economy wait for employment data due for release on Friday.

Even if the US figures bring good news, brokers do not see Hong Kong jumping back to life.

'Investors will be in a cautious mood this week, but a major correction will not take place so soon,' Mo Yik-ko, associate director of UBS Securities, said.

He said the US September unemployment figure would be a crucial indicator of the strength of the US recovery.

Interest rate concerns which ate into enthusiasm last week look likely to continue doing so, according to Adrian Ngan Wai-hung, associate director of SBCI Securities.

Those watching political factors could get some direction from the Governor on Wednesday when he delivers his policy speech, but brokers expect nothing new on this front.

Last week's Sino-British talks in New York failed to bring any progress. Agreement on financing for the new airport and the much-delayed container terminal 9 will probably remain deadlocked until the end of the year, brokers said.

Seapower Securities believes a Christmas rally, which has almost become a ritual in Hong Kong, will be the consolation for investors before the end of this year.

But the brokerage forecasts the Hang Seng Index will fall below 9,400 in the short term, with the ceiling capped at 9,800.

The index ended 111.23 points down for the week, falling below the support level of 9,600. The fall was not surprising, given the nerves over US interest rate and robust economic data which pointed to a likely rates rise.

Turnover was thin as most investors took to the sidelines to avoid mistakes. To make matters worse, Cheung Kong Holdings' latest apartment pre-sale fell short of market expectations. The company was forced to slash prices to attract potential buyers.

Cheung Kong's action was interpreted as meaning there was a rise in supply of flats in the New Territories and a feeling that developers wanted to cash in.

The market made use of this excuse to drop further.