HSBC charged to a record high yesterday, boosted by bullish expectations for the company's interim results due out at the start of next month. The company's shares closed at $264, after rising $10, or 3.9 per cent. DBS Securities analyst Peter Milliken said: 'When prices go up like this you have to start scratching your head and wonder what is going on.' Despite HSBC's meteoric rise, analysts were not willing to call an end to this rally. Even before yesterday's gain, Roy Ramos at Goldman Sachs said: 'We are expecting a price of $275 within the year, but from the way things are going it could happen in a couple of months.' That goal could now be smashed in days. HSBC has risen 15 per cent since June 24. The interim results are expected to be strong with estimates of earnings growth for the first six months ranging from 20.5 per cent year-on-year, down to 11.9 per cent. The balance sheet could be boosted by recent acquisitions overseas, such as British leasing firm Eversholt and First Federal in the United States. A sharp slowdown in the growth of loan-loss provisions is also expected to put a shine on the interim results. HSBC, largely through its subsidiary Hang Seng Bank, last year had to boost provisions in order to cover financially troubled Siu Fung Ceramics, analysts said. At the same time, Hong Kong banks as a whole were increasing provisions last year to about 1 per cent of gross lending, a standard in most developed economies. Merrill Lynch analyst Keith Irving said provisions growth had now stabilised in line with improved asset quality. 'More normalised provisions growth will help earnings this year,' he said. At the same time, with the mainland economy recovering amid easing government austerity measures, HSBC should also get a filip from its mainland-related business. HSBC is one stock that usually sets the pace for the rest of the market, but these days it is the second-tier banks that are helping to pull up HSBC. 'Compared with other banks, a 3.9 per cent rise looks quite timid,' Mr Irving said. Smaller banks have seen their share prices soar recently on expectations of investment by mainland entities. Since the start of June, Liu Chong Hing Bank has outperformed HSBC by more than 21 per cent and Dah Sing Financial has outperformed by 7 per cent. Analysts warned that HSBC's run could eventually run out of steam. Mr Milliken said buying interest on HSBC could wane as British investors switched into building societies that were listing in London. He was also concerned about a possible rise in British interest rates. Nava SC Securities analyst Roland Bruce questioned whether the price-earnings ratio of HSBC should continue to be adjusted upward to maintain parity with valuations of rising stock markets worldwide. 'Lifting the price target every time equity markets go up really does not make any judgment as to whether the equity markets are overvalued or not,' he said.