indicators for superman's year ahead can be found hair and there Could it be a case of Samson and the struggling ports-to-retail global conglomerate? For those who think the fortunes of big Hong Kong companies share little in common with Old Testament heroes, think again. Last summer chairman Li Ka-shing sported a sharply trimmed crew-cut and his share price promptly performed miserably for three months. Interestingly for stock pickers with an eye for biblical matters the same period saw chief financial officer Frank Sixt enter a hair-related wager with the firm's Italian 3G partner. Although Mr Sixt lost, this was happily the result of the Hong Kong firm selling lots of 3G phones. Recent times have seen Mr Li become much more bullish on his stock and in the final weeks of last year he snapped up 6.27 million Hutchison shares at between $71.26 and $72.66 each for about $395 million. The stock closed at $73 yesterday, a three-year high. But will the company pull out of the hat to ensure headline profits maintain their strong record, offsetting mounting 3G losses? Investors reckon a sale of Husky Oil or even Cheung Kong Infrastructure could be on the cards. It should be noted that the follically challenged Mr Li might not quite be sporting a full head of hair, but his mop is certainly looking a good deal bushier. latte fever steams up market There was cappuccino-like froth to local trading in United States heavyweight Starbucks yesterday. The thinly traded counter surged 43 per cent in a single transaction worth $38,880. The rise saw the coffee retailer add $146 (or the price of about six creamy lattes) to close at $486 - to the sound of steam-powered whooshing - making it the day's fifth-biggest market mover. Still, we somehow doubt that the stock exchange will be seeking a clarification statement. Speculation that Starbucks was set to repackage itself as a Macau casino play proved groundless after it was noted that last time the stock traded in Hong Kong four months ago its share price was about 40 per cent lower. ipo victory leaves a bitter taste Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley are known to compete like Coca-Cola and Pepsi. They don't much like each other and both always insist the other leaves a sour taste in the mouth. This year Morgan Stanley topped the global league table for IPO funds raised, a feat that is only slightly tarnished by the fact that its chief rival earned more in fees for selling less stock. RIVALRIES extend to fok daughters In Hong Kong, their rivalry has apparently spread to hiring high-flying daughters of the top executive in town. Last year, Goldman Sachs snapped up Fok Shan-yan, the elder daughter of Hutchison Whampoa managing director Canning Fok Kin-ning, after she graduated from Cambridge University. Not to be outdone, reports a local newspaper, Morgan Stanley recently hired Fok Shan-yee, a soon-to-be law graduate from Trinity College, Cambridge. If you thought the Fok dinner table was already conflicted, we imagine they will need compliance officers along with servers next year. readers line up for coal classics At a closed-door seminar dedicated to national coal production, a photocopied version of various speakers' notes went on sale. The notes from the New Year's Day presentation at a Hubei hotel were sold for as much as 50 yuan (at least this is what a state minister commanded) and we understand a few people were actually seen queuing to make a purchase. As demand for coal has surged, the need for coal-related information seems to be outstripping it. new year sends a scientific signal What can be deduced about the performance of the Hang Seng Index this year? Saturday's poll of brokers in this newspaper suggested the blue-chip index will close the year above 15,000 points and we got yet another assurance yesterday. Lai See, as has been noted previously, is a stats major and has noticed a firm pattern: the first day of trading is a key indicator for the year ahead. Seven out of the last 10 years have seen the first day's trading direction reflect the year as a whole. Yesterday saw the index inch up seven points, suggesting blue sky ahead. And yet we find that many brokers remain less than bullish. Herbert Lau Chung-kwan, a director of research at Celestial Asia Securities, tells us he is worried about the slowing mainland economy, a change of liquidity flow and the US dollar's performance. Still, Lai See is sticking by his own rigorous science.