The Hang Seng Index will reach 19,000 in the second half of next year, according to Bank of China International Securities. Presenting next year's market outlook yesterday, research executive director Allan Ng pointed to the easing of interest rates in the United States as a factor helping push the index. 'It is widely expected that the total reduction [of US rates] in the next 12 months will be from 50 basis points to 75 basis points,' Mr Ng said. The first round of rate cuts would happen between March and April, and thereafter the Hang Seng Index would regain momentum to rise to about 19,000 points by the end of the year, Mr Ng said. Momentum would also be found from the expected rebound of telecommunications, media and technology stocks like China Mobile, China Unicom and Phoenix Satellite as a result of the growth of the China market in the later part of the year. 'The number of mobile phone users in China is expected to reach 120 million by next year,' Mr Ng said. The mainland's Internet users would also increase from 26.6 million to 41.70 million next year, he said. Meanwhile, another brokerage, Celestial Asia Securities Holdings, presented a similar market outlook. Director of research Herbert Lau Chung-kwan targeted the Hang Seng Index at 18,500 points, with a 75-basis-points interest rate cut. The target could be adjusted to 19,200 points if the rate cut reached 100 basis points, Mr Lau said. He said technology stock prices would pressured for a while due to tightened lending by banks, however the counters were near bottoming out.