BUOYANT expectations about HSBC Holdings' interim results helped boost the Hang Seng Index by 126.75 points yesterday to 7,549.73. The index is now only 55.53 points, or 0.73 per cent, from its record high of 7,605.26 after climbing 284.15 points in the past three trading days. The index has jumped 36.9 per cent over the past eight months. However, brokers said it was unlikely that a new record would be set although HSBC announced better-than-expected profits of GBP831 million (about HK$9.59 billion) after the market closed. HSBC rose $1 to $84 after hitting an intra-day high of $85. It was the most-heavily traded issue with turnover of $260 million. The market's cautious theme was reflected by the strong gains chalked up by utility stocks. China Light and Power was up $1 to $43.50, Hongkong Telecom gained 40 cents to $12.40 while Hongkong Electric rose 50 cents to $20.10. The utilities sub-index roared ahead by 249.87 points to 9,005.74 to out-distance gains made by the other sectors. An analyst with a Japanese investment firm said many investors were adopting a defensive posture because of the mixed reports about the success of China's austerity programme. ''Most of the big players are shifting their portfolios from property developers and banks . . . and switching to stocks with a defensive nature,'' he said. Hutchison Whampoa, which announced the resignation of managing director Simon Murray after the market closed, was up 70 cents to $23.40 on renewed speculation it would sell part of its British telecommunications operations. Hutchison was the second-most heavily traded stock with turnover of $226.2 million.