TALK about Shanghai surprise. Last week's spectacular rebound in the mainland A share markets left the Shanghai and Shenzhen indexes more than 100 per cent higher. The step back from the abyss came as enthusiastic brokerages embraced the recovery package announced by the China Securities and Regulatory Commission (CSRC), and piled into the market armed with the new credit lines opened up by the banks. Local commentators bemoaned the familiar herd mentality, and privately said the price leaps would be a short-lived affair. This was not the beginnings of a ''Japan Inc'' set-up: alliances would be short-lived as the time horizons of local brokerages were not long enough, was the word from the trenches. If so, it is not for want of trying by the CSRC. We hear that up to a month ago the regulator had put in place the mechanisms that would send prices on their way after 18 months of declines. Apparently the leading brokerages in Shenzhen and Shanghai were told of the plan to ban further listings, after months of beating around the bush by the CSRC, and instructed to begin buying when the signal was given. For their trouble they have again been promised fat underwriting fees once new listings begin again, it was said.ALL the world's a stage, and for property commentators that means a chance to assuage the fears of Hong Kong. Somebody once said the true sign of genius was to hold two opposite opinions without contradiction. In that case, the talking shop on Hong Kong's property sector would seem to be packed full of budding Wittgensteins. Hardly a week goes by without the analysts, media, and agents swinging through schizophrenic spasms of optimism and fear. Property tumbles usually take on this shape, but in Hong Kong - with its extraordinary concentration of asset values in bricks and mortar - there is special cause for concern. But behind the confusion of market ''noise'' the picture remains one of catatonic tedium; transactions are almost non-existent. For example, take a walk around the Lippo Centre in Admiralty, previously one of the hottest tickets on the strata-title divide-and-profit circuit, and notice the 10 floors or so that sit empty: Hong Kong has an official vacancy rate of about 1.3 per cent, although agents privately put the figure closer to 10 per cent. Bought by speculators, divided into smaller units, then sold down the chain to smaller punters, it had much in common with the party game ''pass the parcel''. The trick was not to get left holding the parcel when the music stopped. Well, plenty did. The latest twist in the strata-title game is some investors are having their properties repossessed by banks after missing payments. Now that wouldn't sound like the beginnings of a property slump, would it?BARING Securities, famous for those very thick and very colourful research reports, has been fighting some turf battles just recently. Being one of longest-established brokerages in the Asia-Pacific, it has long fought to preserve autonomy from its bigger sibling, Baring Brothers in London. Now, however, the decision has been made to merge the two operations, and a furious bout of departmental wrangling has ensued.