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Shaky index tests 7,700 despite rise on Wall St

Swire Group

THE stock market saw no signs of a turnaround, with the index falling a further 81 points yesterday to end barely above the 7,700-level.

The Hang Seng Index dropped 1.04 per cent to 7,707.78 while turnover of $2.44 billion reflected the meagre trade.

In spite of a five-point jump in Wall Street overnight, the market did not respond positively as redemption pressure remained, although it had looked for a technical rebound at the opening.

Buoyed by the mildly positive performance in Wall Street, the index soared about 105 points at the opening to the day's high at 7,894.21 points, but fell back in the 7,700-level in an hour.

One broker said overseas selling, especially from the United States, continued to be intense but the US fund redemption pressure would be reduced ahead of the year-end.

Another concern in the market was the lack of buying interest.

During the one-hour technical rebound in the early morning, investors 'were not eager to follow through to buy at higher prices', the broker said.

Futures-related selling in the second half of morning trade also pushed the shares prices down.

Brokers said if Wall Street remained stable, the market would perform better and find support at 7,700.

However, besides concerns about Wall Street's performance, the market was also worried about the US economic data to be released this week.

Economic data over the past few weeks showed stronger-than-anticipated signs of recovery in the US, which had aroused concern about a further increase in interest rates early next year.

The only real buyers now are retail investors and companies buying back their own stock; however, the buying was not aggressive.

Overseas institutions continued to redeem their funds and blue chips remained the hardest hit, accounting for 70.81 per cent of trading volume.

The performances of Hang Seng Index stocks were mixed, with 23 lower, five higher and five unchanged.

The property sector was the biggest casualty, with the sub-index falling 161.44 points to 13,019.74.

Residential prices appear to be sliding and property players lost further confidence following the news of weak demand for upmarket residential units in Mid-Levels.

Swire Pacific, parent of Swire Properties, encountered the biggest fall, dropping 5.54 per cent to close $2.5 lower at $42.60 on a turnover of $101.03 million.

Its share price dropped significantly after Swire Properties announced its offer of 24 flats in Robinson Place had been under-subscribed.

Cheung Kong dipped 40 cents to $30.10 on a $117.75 million turnover, while Sun Hung Kai Properties dropped 30 cents to $45.70 on a $75.37 million turnover.

Henderson Land fell 3.31 per cent to close $1.2 lower at $35 on a turnover of $76.12 million.

The company recently decided to cut the prices of new flats by 15 per cent, which may help guarantee some sales.

However, higher mortgage costs as a result of the 75 basis point increase in interest rates in mid-November had cut demand and dampened the sector.

In the banking sector, heaving selling also sent the heaviest-weighted HSBC Holdings down $1.25 to $80.25.