HONG KONG investors are attempting to double-guess Hang Seng Index peaks - with sometimes disastrous results. Analysis of recent market performance reveals that they piled in as the market hit recent highs rather than building up their stakes as the market languished at its 1995 lows. Virginia Wong Devereux, director of marketing for ImPac Asset Management, said: 'Retail investors are often caught by the emotional side of investment rather than looking at it objectively. Most of the time they will get market timing wrong.' One way to avoid incorrectly timing a market plunge is by subscribing to one of the regular savings plans on offer from the territory's unit trust companies. The past nine months' performance of the Hang Seng provides an illustration of the dangers of taking the plunge with a lump sum. The best day to invest in the market this year would have been on January 23 when the Hang Seng Index stood at 6,967 points. Investors lucky enough to pick correctly would have made an annual return equivalent to 51.08 per cent on a representative basket of blue-chip stocks by late last week. Those who took a stake on the worst day, October 17, when the market hit its intra-year high, have so far lost nearly four per cent. But according to the Hong Kong stock exchange, more investors piled in as the market hit its peak rather than taking the longer - and more profitable - route to maximising returns. Having to pick a market low or high is one of the most difficult - and generally fruitless - exercises for full-time fund managers. The alternative for an investor trying to smooth out the market's peaks and troughs is regular savings. An investor in Fidelity Investments' average performing Hong Kong and China Fund would have secured gains of 12.5 per cent if they had invested equal amounts each month for the nine-month period. Ms Wong Devereux said: 'A lump sum at the end of the day comes from regular savings. By putting it in monthly you are giving your money an earlier chance to get into the market.' A savings scheme also gives the benefit of experienced investment experts and relieves the concern of worrying about investments daily. Furthermore, it gives the advantages of 'dollar cost averaging'. This refers to the fact that by investing regularly, investors will usually pay a lower average price for their shares. This is because a fixed contribution buys a greater number of units when the price is low, and fewer when the price is high. Dollar cost averaging enables the investor to diminish the impact of performance extremes during the past 12 months. Henry Yu, director of marketing and sales at Thornton Management (Asia), a company which offers a monthly savings scheme, said dollar cost averaging was becoming more popular. 'But there are still a lot of people who invest on a get-rich-quick basis,' Mr Yu said. He said the most popular instalment period was monthly, but individual investors should base frequency on their own specific needs. He said: 'It does not really matter about the frequency of investments as long as it is constant.' About 20 of the territory's unit trust companies now offer a range of low-cost and convenient schemes for regular savings. Most of these enable money to be withdrawn from the client's bank account and deposited into a fund automatically when it is due. Mark Konyn, director of business development at Indosuez Asia Investment Services, said: 'Over time, regular investment builds up to a substantial nest egg. 'This form of investment is becoming more popular in Hong Kong all the time. 'A lot of people say investors in Hong Kong are speculative investors but the professional middle class are much more discerning than that.'