Manulife Investor Sentiment Index eases slightly

    Drop follows major leap in previous quarter


    WATERLOO, ON, April 19 /CNW/ - Canadians' interest in investments fell
back slightly in late March, after recording its largest leap in more than six
years the previous quarter based on national polls for Manulife Financial,
Canada's leading insurance and wealth management company.
    The 33rd quarterly Manulife Investor Sentiment Index eased four points,
after an 11-point gain the previous quarter. At the time, the December poll
reflected the largest upswing since the surveys began in 1999 and fell just
one point shy of its all-time high of +35, reached in mid-2000.
    "Support for investing in general remains very strong and our latest
results likely reflect other economic signals," said Paul Rooney, President
and CEO, Manulife Canada. "The TSX continues near record highs, real estate
markets remain active in Canada and the economy remains very stable. However,
uncertainty remains around interest rates and their impact on real estate and
    The latest survey of 1,006 Canadians by Maritz Research found only two
investment categories and vehicles gained ground from the previous poll in
December, while fixed income investments and Registered Education Savings
Plans lost the most favour among those surveyed.
    "For the past seven quarters the overall index remained above +20 and
that's generally a good sign," Mr. Rooney added. "Through much of 2004 and
into 2005 we were in softer territory, so we were optimistic about the overall
economic picture given other recent measures of consumer confidence in
    "Consumers remain extremely focused on a broad range of long-term
investments with most changes in the single-digit range," Mr. Rooney added.
"That's in spite of concerns about real estate markets in the United States
and impact from budget measures recently announced here in Canada."

    The overall index
    Since its launch in 1999, the Manulife Investor Sentiment Index has
remained in positive territory overall, peaking at +35 in early 2000 and
reaching a low of +11 in December 2001.
    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.
    "More than one in five Canadians are served by Manulife's wide range of
financial services and products and among our key objectives is to help them
make better financial decisions," Mr. Rooney said. "We always encourage
investors to work closely with their advisors, particularly given short-term
changes in the economy and markets. That helps them to balance guaranteed
versus variable investments, as well as stay focused on their short- and
long-term goals."

    Two categories climb -- all maintain double-digit ratings
    All six investment categories and four vehicles measured each quarter
remained in double-digit positive territory, only the fourth time since the
surveys began in 1999.
    Among investment categories, investing in stocks gained one percentage
point, while investment property gained three points. Investing in fixed
income instruments, their own homes and balanced funds showed declines, off
13, six and three points respectively. Cash was off five points from December,
but still held at +16.

    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 back six points to +55. The index
        reflects 64 per cent of those surveyed who said it's a good or very
        good time to invest in their own residence -- minus nine per cent who
        believe it's a bad or very bad time.

    -   Balanced funds continued to rank second as the most-popular
        investment target, off three points to +38. Among those surveyed,
        52 per cent felt balanced funds are a good or very good place to
        invest, compared to 14 per cent who said the opposite.

    -   Investment real estate climbed back to place in April among most
        popular destinations, after sitting in fourth the two previous
        quarters. At +30, investment real estate showed the largest gain in
        the quarter.

    -   Fixed income investments (including GICs and annuities) showed a
        strong decline after a strong gain in December, falling back
        13 points to almost erase the 15-point gain the previous quarter. At
        +25, the index for fixed income fell back after gaining ground
        previously amid speculation of possibly higher interest rates.
        However, the index remains relatively high compared to its low of +4
        in mid-2004.

    -   Cash (including savings accounts) fell back this quarter, falling
        five points to +16. Cash continues to vie with equities among the
        least favourite places to put money.

    -   After marginal gains in September and December, the index for
        equities added another point in April to also sit at +16. The stocks
        index reflects 39 per cent who said it's a good or very good time to
        invest in stocks, either directly or via mutual funds, while
        23 per cent view equities as a bad choice. One in five respondents
        (20 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 fell back six points in April, after a major 16-point
        leap in December. At +54, the latest result reflects 67 per cent of
        respondents who feel it's a good or very good time to put money into
        RRSPs, while 13 per cent said they feel it is a bad or very bad time.

    -   Registered Education Savings Plans showed the strongest overall
        decline in April, after climbing a dramatic 25 points in December, to
        reach +44 in the latest poll. Some 58 per cent of those surveyed said
        now is a good time to invest, compared to 14 per cent who disagreed.

    -   After hitting a record high in December, by gaining 14 points to +37,
        the index for mutual funds also fell back. At +30, the index for
        mutual funds reflects 47 per cent said now is a good or very good
        time to invest in mutual funds, while 17 per cent said it was a bad
        or very bad time. Another 19 per cent answered that it was neither a
        good or bad time for funds.

    -   Segregated funds, perhaps the least understood of the investment
        vehicles, also showed a seven-point decline in April to stand at +21.

    The poll by Maritz Research was conducted with 1,006 Canadians aged 18
and older between March 22 and March 25, 2007. The results have a margin of
error of +/- three per cent, 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$414 billion
(US$355 billion) as at December 31, 2006.
    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

For further information:

For further information: Media Contact: Tom Nunn, Manulife Financial,
(519) 594-8578,

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