CHAMPAGNE corks popped all over Central again yesterday as the Hang Seng Index smashed through the 12,000 mark on the first trading day of the New Year. The index powered up 198.10 points or 1.67 per cent to close at a new record of 12,086.49, on a turnover of $9.22 billion. Japanese funds led the impetus of the bull run while local investors also began moving in. The index made ground in the traditional pre-Lunar-New-Year rally, where people's expectation of the index attaining even higher levels helped to push up prices. Some local retail investors tend to invest their year-end bonus in the stock market before the Lunar New Year. Brokers said the local market was attractive due to its link with China's booming economy, the low interest rates worldwide and the still low prices of Hong Kong stocks relative to those in many other exchanges. Yesterday, the market opened at around 11,884 to swiftly rally above the 12,000 mark within the first 15 minutes, only to tumble just as swiftly below 12,000 shortly after 10.30 am to the day's low of 11,810.27 shortly after 11 am. Buying momentum intensified for the rest of the day, projecting the index above 12,000 again at about 3 pm. It hit an intra-day high of 12,115.56 just before the market closed. Many analysts are optimistic of the market's continued strength, with most people tipping it to hit 14,000 within the first quarter. More bullish ones predicted it to reach that level by the end of next month. However, some brokers warned about the onslaught of an overdue adjustment. ''The market since the middle of December has grown without correction. There must be a time when the market has a correction,'' Vickers Ballas director Barry Yates said. Baring Securities assistant director James Slade said: ''Whatever happens, it will be very volatile.'' Standard Chartered research director Eugene Law, who predicted the year's high to be 14,500, said the temptation for profit-taking would immediately heighten if the market achieved 13,000 before the Lunar New Year. At yesterday's close, the index had gained 9.48 per cent from a weak ago, 30.04 per cent from one month ago, 67.47 per cent from six months ago and 119.26 per cent from a year ago. The property sector continued to lead, with six gaining property counters on the day's top 10 turnover chart. They are Hopewell Holdings, Chinese Estates Holdings, Sun Hung Kai Properties, Cheung Kong (Holdings), Hang Lung Development and Sino Land.