The commercial and industrial sub-index, which posted the strongest gains yesterday, has lagged the main index badly since the start of the year, but that gap could narrow in the months ahead. The sectoral index, which comprises a disparate collection of 15 companies, has gained a little less than 7 per cent since January, compared with the Hang Seng Index's rise of more than 20 per cent. Much of the blue-chip measure's advance can be traced to two outperformers: HSBC, which dominates the three-firm finance sub-index, and Hongkong Telecom, which accounts for the lion's share of the utilities sub-index. The utilities and financials sub-indices have both added about 50 per cent. Properties, stung by a verbal assault against speculation and promises of greater land supply, have sunk 3.23 per cent in the period. Should positive sentiment continue to push Hutchison Whampoa higher - and the stock has attracted strong endorsements from a swathe of houses - it may pull up the commercial and industrial sector with it. Hutchison accounts for more than a third of the sub-index's weighting.