Do biotech prices surge simply because a conference exists? Should last week's trading be attributed to the Hambrecht & Quist Healthcare Conference? Or should it simply be ascribed to the January Effect - a scenario in which portfolio managers start the year anew, and are more receptive to growth stories in an effort to begin the year off with a bang. One argument for H&Q influence is that most of the presenting companies at last week's conference in San Francisco received price bumps, while the BioCentury 100 closed up only 1 percent at 1245.36.

H&Q banker Dennis Purcell, in a luncheon address on Tuesday, pointed out that the biotech sector had enough momentum on Monday to rise despite a tepid broad market. While the broad markets were mixed on Monday, "with half the stocks closing down and half the stocks closing up," Purcell noted, "85 percent of the