Why a near-term rally may not be in the stars Astrologers and fung shui experts have given investors hope that the market may improve during the Year of the Ox and stocks could bottom out in the summer months, like a cow's bulging belly! But a look back at the record of the Chinese zodiac suggests that a near-term rally this year may not be in the stars. The Hang Seng Index slumped during the two months following the Lunar New Year in five of the six years represented by farm animals. The worst of the bunch was actually the previous Year of the Ox in 1997, when it dropped 10.66 per cent. The only major rallies came during the years of quick, wild animals. The index enjoyed rallies greater than 25 per cent in the first two months of the Year of the Tiger and the Year of the Rabbit in 1998 and 1999, respectively. It even edged upwards after the Year of the Rat in 2008, before collapsing 41.46 per cent in the rest of the calendar year. So while a near-term rally may not mean much for the rest of the year, distressed investors must surely be hoping for at least a little good fortune after the Hang Seng Index has already fallen 12.57 per cent so far this year. Blue chips in bargain bin Financial firms such as Credit Suisse have once again advised local investors to use some lai see money to buy small-cap stocks. But considering how much the market is down these days, why not just go for the blue chips? Even though less lai see money may go around this year, investors should still have enough cash to acquire a stake in some once-celebrated, heavyweight stocks that have hit the rocks. After last year's collapse, the Hang Seng Index has started to resemble the bargain bins at department stores, where all items must go. China Construction Bank Corp, Bank of China and Industrial and Commercial Bank of China are all trading at less than HK$3.75. Oil giants PetroChina and CNOOC can be had for just HK$5.58 and HK$6.50, respectively. And Cathay Pacific Airways only costs HK$8.50. And while some big names still sit on the top shelf, they may be due for price reductions as well. Even after the recent rash of panic selling dragged HSBC below HK$60 to a decade low, analysts warned that the bellwether could be further marked down when it next reports its earnings. Mr Fix-it makes his exit Wall Street was stunned by news of John Thain's departure from Bank of America Corp less than a month after he joined the firm. That the embattled former chief of Merrill Lynch did not fit into the new merger with Bank of America was not as surprising as reports that Mr Thain (above) might have paid about US$1.2 million to refurnish his office last year. CNBC said that early last year Mr Thain hired an interior decorating team, which has also been commissioned by US President Barack Obama to spruce up the White House. Some of the big-ticket items for the office revamp were reportedly an area rug that cost US$87,000, a US$68,000 antique credenza, a George IV oak chair valued at US$18,000, and last, but not least, a US$1,400 wastebasket. After juggling so many problems during his tenure at Merrill Lynch, the ball finally dropped for Mr Thain, who was once known on Wall Street as 'Mr Fix-it.' And while he was not able to repair the ruptures at Merrill, we can only hope that with his new free time, Mr Fix-it will have an opportunity to start renovations on his home office. Getting them young Hello Kitty has taken the advertising mantra of 'get 'em while they're young' to a new level. The hugely successful brand logo belonging to Japan's Sanrio company is now plastered all over a maternity hospital in Taiwan. A giant Hello Kitty figure in a pink doctor's uniform greets visitors in the lobby, while colourful murals cover the walls of the recovery rooms.