Manulife Investor Sentiment Index rises slightly as investors adjust



    Interest eases in real estate; only stocks stay in negative territory

    TSX/NYSE/PSE: MFC; SEHK: 0945

    WATERLOO, ON, July 23 /CNW/ - Canadians generally say they kept positive
about investing in the past quarter, despite daily news about volatile equity
markets, rising gas and food prices plus U.S. sub-prime lending woes,
according to a national poll for Manulife Financial, Canada's leading
insurance and wealth management company.
    The 38th quarterly Manulife Investor Sentiment Index gained two points to
reach +24 in late June, after a five-point drop in the previous quarterly poll
in March.
    "We're seeing very consistent responses from Canadians, who suggest
they're adjusting in stride to daily events," said Paul Rooney, President and
CEO, Manulife Canada. "In our latest poll we do see some shifts -- in
particular toward cash and specific funds, and away from investment real
estate. Yet Canadians continue to show strong interest in mutual and
segregated funds, with only stocks still in negative territory."
    The survey of 1,000 Canadians by Maritz Research in late June found seven
among 10 investment categories and vehicles gained ground from the previous
March poll.
    "We always encourage investors to work closely with their own advisors,
particularly given short-term changes in the economy and markets," said Mr.
Rooney. "That helps them balance their guaranteed versus variable investments,
as well as stay focused on their 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. "Depending on their own
personal goals, some Canadian investors will naturally adjust to protect or
continue to grow their investments."

    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 a low of +11, in December 2001. During the past two years, the index
has remained near six-year highs and 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.

    Four of six investment categories gain ground
    ---------------------------------------------
    Real estate was the only investment category to lose ground in the recent
survey, with investment property and their principal residences both losing
some support from earlier this year.
    After rising 12 percentage points in March, investment property
registered the strongest drop in June of any category, by falling
11 percentage points. Principal residences kept their place as the most
popular investment category - yet support for investing in their own home also
eased two 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 two points in June to +53, after
        gaining five points in the March survey. The index reflects 65 per
        cent of those surveyed who said it's a good or very good time to
        invest in their own residence -- minus 12 per cent who believe it's a
        bad or very bad time.

    -   Fixed income investments (including GICs and annuities) climbed to
        second place among most popular categories this quarter, rising four
        points from March. At +28, the index remains high compared to its low
        of +4 in mid-2004.

    -   Balanced funds also rose to third place among the most-popular
        investment targets, rising eight points to +25. Among those surveyed,
        46 per cent felt balanced funds are a good or very good place to
        invest, compared to 21 per cent who said the opposite in June.

    -   Cash (including savings accounts) showed the largest category gain by
        climbing nine points this quarter to sit at +23. Cash has
        traditionally been the least favourite among places to put money, but
        eclipsed both investment real estate and equities in the most recent
        poll.

    -   Investment real estate dropped sharply, from its second-place ranking
        in March to place fifth among investment categories in June. At +17,
        investment real estate showed the largest decline in the quarter --
        after registering the largest gain in March.

    -   After marginal gains in the past year, the index for equities
        actually gained six points in June to sit at -1, the only category in
        negative territory. The stocks index reflects 31 per cent who said
        it's a good or very good time to invest in stocks, either directly or
        via mutual funds, while 32 per cent saw equities as a bad choice.
        Another 23 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.

    -   Among Canadians' favourite investment vehicles, Registered Retirement
        Savings Plans showed a slight gain one one point in June. At +56, the
        latest results for RRSPs reflect 68 per cent of respondents who feel
        it's a good or very good time to put money into an RRSP, while 12 per
        cent said they feel it is a bad or very bad time.

    -   Registered Education Savings Plans lost five points, to reach +45 in
        the latest poll. Some 59 per cent of those surveyed said now is a
        good time to invest, compared to 14 per cent who disagreed.

    -   At +22, the index for mutual funds climbed five points from the last
        quarterly survey, reflecting 43 per cent who said now is a good or
        very good time to invest in mutual funds, while 21 per cent said it
        was a bad or very bad time. Another 25 per cent answered that it was
        neither a good or bad time for funds.

    -   Segregated funds also showed a five-point increase in June and tied
        the popularity of mutual funds to stand at +22.
    

    The poll by Omnitel, a division of Acrobat Research, was conducted with
1,000 Canadians aged 18 and older between June 19 and June 24, 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 $389 billion) as at March 31, 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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