Canadians looking for stability: Manulife Investor Sentiment Index



    
    Cash, RESPs gain ground: fixed income, segregated funds remain stable

    TSX/NYSE/PSE: MFC; SEHK: 0945
    

    WATERLOO, ON, Oct. 24 /CNW/ - Cash and fixed income investments are
narrowing the gap on Canadians' own homes as the most popular havens to put
money these days, according to a national poll for Manulife Financial,
Canada's leading insurance and wealth management company.
    Registered Education Savings Plans and segregated funds also appear as
stable investment vehicles with Canadians these days, as daily news reports
cover volatile stock markets and the troubled U.S. economy. In its latest
quarterly survey, the 39th quarterly Manulife Investor Sentiment Index fell
back 16 points in early October to reach +8, its lowest point since the survey
began in 1999.
    The national telephone poll of 1,000 Canadians by Maritz Research in
early October found eight among 10 investment categories and vehicles declined
from the previous June survey.
    "Overall market volatility is unsettling for many Canadians and the
tendency is to seek a safe haven," said Paul Rooney, President and CEO,
Manulife Canada. "But we always encourage investors to work closely with their
own advisors, particularly given short-term changes in the economy and
markets."
    "Working with an advisor and sticking to a plan can help balance
guaranteed versus variable investments, as well as stay focused on short- and
long-term goals."
    Manulife serves more than one in five Canadians with a wide range of
financial services and products, and among our key objectives is to help them
make better financial decisions, added Mr. Rooney.

    The overall index
    -----------------
    Since its launch in 1999, the Manulife Investor Sentiment Index has
remained in positive territory overall. It peaked at +35 in early 2000, but
fell to +11, in December 2001. During the past two years, the index had
generally remained near six-year highs, above +20.
    The quarterly index monitors how Canadians say they feel about investing
in 10 different categories and vehicles. The index reflects the percentage of
those who say they believe it is a good or very good time to invest minus
those who feel the opposite.

    One of six investment categories gain ground
    --------------------------------------------
    Only cash gained ground in the latest national survey, while investment
real estate took another hard hit from Canadians, dropping into negative
territory for the first time since 1999. Balanced funds and stocks also faced
major setbacks when Canadians were asked if they're a good place to invest.
    After dropping 11 percentage points in June, investment property
registered a strong drop again in October by falling 26 percentage points.
Principal residences kept their place as the most popular investment category
- yet support for investing in their own home also eased 10 percentage points.

    Highlights
    ----------
    The Manulife Investor Sentiment Index is determined by the following six
investment categories, shown by order of their overall ranking in the survey.

    
    -  Investing in their own homes (either through renovations or paying
       down the mortgage) remains the most popular place for Canadians to put
       their money - a consistent finding since 1999. The index for investing
       in their own home fell 10 points in October to +43. The index reflects
       60 per cent of those surveyed who said it's a good or very good time
       to invest in their own residence -- minus 17 per cent who believe it's
       a bad or very bad time.

    -  Fixed income investments (including GICs and annuities) remained in
       second place, tied with cash this quarter, among most popular
       categories, falling back two points from June. At +26, the index
       remains high compared to its low of +4 in mid-2004.

    -  Cash (including savings accounts) was the only investment category to
       gain this quarter, by climbing three points to +26. Since 1999, cash
       has traditionally been the least favourite place named by Canadians to
       leave their money, but it now ranks higher than balanced funds,
       investment real estate and equities in the most recent poll.

    -  Balanced funds fell to fourth place among the most-popular investment
       targets, losing 33 points to sit at -8. Among those surveyed, 32 per
       cent felt balanced funds are a good or very good place to invest,
       compared to 40 per cent who said the opposite in October.

    -  Investment real estate dropped sharply, falling from its second-place
       rank in March to place fifth among investment categories in October.
       At -9, investment real estate fell into negative territory for the
       first time since the survey began.

    -  After marginal gains in the past year, the index for equities dropped
       back 27 points in October to sit at -28. The stocks index reflects 23
       per cent who said it's a good or very good time to invest in stocks,
       either directly or via mutual funds, while 51 per cent saw equities as
       a bad choice. Another 12 per cent felt it's neither a good or bad time
       to buy shares.

    Investment Vehicles
    -------------------
    As well as evaluating the six investment categories, the same question was
asked of four investment vehicles.

    -  Registered Education Savings Plans took over the top spot among
       favourite vehicles in October, climbing three points to reach +48 in
       the latest poll. Some 62 per cent of those surveyed said now is a good
       time to invest, compared to 14 per cent who disagreed.

    -  Among Canadians' traditional favourite investment vehicles, Registered
       Retirement Savings Plans showed a significant drop of 18 points in
       October. At +38, the latest results for RRSPs reflect 58 per cent of
       respondents who feel it's a good or very good time to put money into
       an RRSP, while 20 per cent said they feel it is a bad or very bad
       time.

    -  Segregated funds showed strong stability in October and overtook
       mutual funds to stand at +20. New products, like Manulife's
       IncomePlus, aimed to protect investors from the downside of the
       market, have been popular since the initial launch two years ago of
       the first guaranteed minimum withdrawal benefit product in Canada.

    -  At -9, the index for mutual funds fell 31 points from the last
       quarterly survey, reflecting 30 per cent who said now is a good or
       very good time to invest in mutual funds, while 39 per cent said it
       was a bad or very bad time. Another 17 per cent answered that it was
       neither a good or bad time for funds.

    The poll by Omnitel, a division of Acrobat Research, was conducted with
1,000 Canadians aged 18 and older between October 2 and October 6, 2008. The
results have a margin of error of +/- three percentage points, 19 times out of
20.

    About Manulife Financial
    ------------------------
    

    Manulife Financial is a leading Canadian-based financial services group
serving millions of customers in 19 countries and territories worldwide.
Operating as Manulife Financial in Canada and Asia, and primarily through John
Hancock in the United States, the Company offers clients a diverse range of
financial protection products and wealth management services through its
extensive network of employees, agents and distribution partners. Funds under
management by Manulife Financial and its subsidiaries were Cdn$400 billion
(US$393 billion) as at June 30, 2008.
    Manulife Financial is one of two publicly traded life insurance companies
in the world whose rated life insurance subsidiaries hold Standard & Poor's
Rating Services' highest "AAA" rating.
    Manulife Financial Corporation trades as 'MFC' on the TSX, NYSE and PSE,
and under '0945' on the SEHK. Manulife Financial can be found on the Internet
at www.manulife.com.




For further information:

For further information: Media contact: Tom Nunn, Manulife Financial,
(519)594-8578, tom_nunn@manulife.com


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