The Hang Seng Index yesterday staged another impressive performance on surging turnover to edge closer to its all-time high on strength in HSBC and leading counters among Li Ka-shing's firms. The benchmark index gained 162.35 points, or 0.91 per cent, to 17,920.86 on significantly higher turnover for the day of HK$20.29 billion. During intraday trade, the index reached 18,125.57 before paring gains towards the close. Analysts said impending financial reforms on the mainland and signs of robust economic growth had spurred overseas investors to shift into stronger positions from being underweight in mainland-related plays such as H-shares and red chips. In the blue-chip arena, United States Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan's speech to Congress overnight brought a surge on Wall Street on Thursday as investors took his comments as indicating the rate-rise increase cycle was over, or nearly over. The positive response in the US gave prospective Hong Kong buyers the incentive to trade across the board, with banking heavyweight HSBC rising 1.52 per cent to reach $100. The counter has not closed above $100 for almost seven months after finishing at $101 on January 7. Turnover in HSBC topped $2.41 billion, while Hutchison saw $1.32 billion worth of trade. 'The foreign funds are buying the China story,' Dao Heng Securities deputy head of institutional sales Geoff Galbraith said. 'Greenspan indicated things were cooling down . . . HSBC closed in New York at $110 so we knew the market here was going to open up with a bang,' Mr Galbraith said. Salomon Smith Barney in New York reported its first impressions of Mr Greenspan's speech were consistent with its thinking that he would be cautiously optimistic. 'Cautious because higher inflation remains the dominant threat, optimistic because policy is beginning to have a salutary effect,' Salomon said. With regard to the mainland play rally, Mr Galbraith said some of the H shares were at a PE ratio of less than 10 and still trading under their 52-week highs. 'Obviously they will run into a bit of profit-taking, but they have got a way to go,' he said. The H-share index rose 3.65 per cent, and red chips were up 4.42 per cent. ABN Amro head of research Charles Whitworth said Beijing's recently announced financial reforms were seen as a precursor to fund inflows into the mainland-linked sector. Mr Greenspan's testimony was particularly positive for Hong Kong, he said. 'Hong Kong would have been most hit by a hard economic landing and that explains the volume in the market,' Mr Whitworth said. Hutchison was stronger in anticipation of a bid for its 23 per cent-owned VoiceStream Wireless stake but further news on the possible purchase deal failed to materialise. Rumours also surfaced that France Telecom was interested in taking a holding in VoiceStream. Hutchison's stock rose 1.64 per cent to $123.50, with parent company Cheung Kong moving 2.52 per cent higher to mirror HSBC's movements and close on the strong side of $100, at $101.50.