Hong Kong stocks finished a day of range trading on Tuesday, with the benchmark Hang Seng Index edging up 0.81 percent to 13,880.64.
The HSI once neared the 14,000 mark by moving to as high as 13,976.31 in the morning, but moved within narrow ranges above 13,600 thereafter. The lowest reading for the benchmark index during trading was 13,663.41.
Analysts attributed the lack of clarity in the market's direction to the delay of the United States bailout plan at the Congress, although U.S. President Barrack Obama's press conference was aired throughout the world.
Mild profit taking, a practice in line with recommendations from financial institutions, was seen a few times during the day's trading. Short sales remained low, suggesting a still generally positive market sentiment.
The HSI futures for February was trading at a modest discount of about 40 points, also suggesting a lack of direction on the Hong Kong market.
Turnover shrank from Monday's rather modest 48.54 billion HK dollars (6.22 billion U.S. dollars) to 42.06 billion HK dollars (5.39 billion U.S. dollars).
Banking giant HSBC finished up 0.8 percent at 63 HK dollars and its local unit Hang Seng Bank also added 0.38 percent at 92.35 HK dollars.
The finance sub-index gained the most among the major categories, advancing 218.80 points, or 1.08 percent, to finish at 20,399.88.
ICBC, the leading commercial lender on the Chinese mainland, gained 1.1 percent at 3.68 HK dollars, while China Construction Bank added 1.94 percent to close at 4.2 HK dollars.
Bank of China advanced 0.02 HK dollars, or 0.93 percent, at 2.18 HK dollars, and BOC Hong Kong rose 2.08 percent to finish at 8.35 HK dollars.
China Life, the leading insurance player on the mainland, also gained 1.28 percent to close at 23.8 HK dollars, while Ping An added 1.47 percent.
Energy shares benefited from news report of a potential tax cut for oil products, with PetroChina surging 2.96 percent to 6.6 HK dollars and offshore oil producer CNOOC adding 2.58 percent at 7.55 HK dollars.
Sinopec, however, shed 0.02 HK dollars, or 0.43 percent.
China Mobile, another market heavyweight and the leading telecom operator on the Chinese mainland, added 0.92 percent at 76.45 HK dollars, while competitor China Unicom edged up 0.05 HK dollars at 7.84 HK dollars.
Most Hong Kong-based real property players lost ground on the news that Hang Lung Properties recorded sharp profit falls. Sun Hung Kai Properties, the leading residential developer in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, lost 1.35 percent at 65.95 HK dollars, while Cheung Kong, the conglomerate headed by the city's richest man Li Ka-shing, lost 0.52 percent.
The properties sub-index shed 0.83 percent, while the commerce and industry category advanced 1.05 percent. The utilities genre added 0.08 percent.
HKEx, the only stock exchange in the financial hub of Hong Kong, added 1.05 HK dollars, or 1.52 percent, to close at 70 HK dollars.