Manulife Investor Sentiment Index pulls back from seven-year highs


    WATERLOO, ON, Oct. 17 /CNW/ - Canadians' interest in investments lost
ground in September amid concerns about U.S. sub-prime mortgages and softer
equity markets at the time, according to a national poll for Manulife
Financial, Canada's leading insurance and wealth management company.
    The 35th quarterly Manulife Investor Sentiment Index fell 11 points
to +20, after hovering for the three previous quarters near its highest levels
since 2001.
    "Canadians overall remain generally positive about long-term investing,
however market shivers in August obviously had some impact," said Paul Rooney,
President and CEO, Manulife Canada. "We've seen some strong stability since as
the TSX continued near record highs, real estate markets remain active in
Canada and the economy remains relatively stable."
    The September survey of 1,000 Canadians by Maritz Research found all
investment categories and vehicles lost ground from the previous poll.
    "For much of the past two years the overall index has remained above +20
- and for the past three quarters it had come in above +30," Mr. Rooney added.
"In September's poll we're seeing major impacts on both real estate and
equities, which reflects the main worries at the time."

    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.
    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."

    All six investment categories edge lower
    For six previous straight quarters, all six investment categories and
four vehicles measured each quarter remained in double-digit positive
territory. But real estate, equities and balanced funds all were hit in the
latest poll, dropping double digits in each case.
    Among investment categories, investment property showed the strongest
decline, down 16 points. Balanced funds fell back 15 points, while investing
in their own homes dropped 14 points from the last quarterly survey. Cash lost
the least ground, falling one point to +10, while fixed income investments
lost nine points to +19.

    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 14 points to +42. The index
        reflects 55 per cent of those surveyed who said it's a good or very
        good time to invest in their own residence -- minus 13 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 15 points to +22. Among those surveyed,
        41 per cent felt balanced funds are a good or very good place to
        invest, compared to 19 per cent who said the opposite.

    -   Fixed income investments (including GICs and annuities) ranked in
        third among investment destinations this quarter, off nine points
        from June. At +19, the index remains relatively high compared to its
        low of +4 in mid-2004.

    -   Investment real estate lost its traditional third place ranking among
        investment destinations. At +18, investment real estate showed the
        largest drop in the quarter, off 16 points.

    -   Cash (including savings accounts) fell only one point this quarter to
        +10. Cash has traditionally been the least favourite among places to
        put money, but surpassed equities in the most recent poll.

    -   After marginal gains in through the past year, the index for equities
        lost 11 points in September to sit at +7, the only single-digit
        category. The stocks index reflects 32 per cent who said it's a good
        or very good time to invest in stocks, either directly or via mutual
        funds, while 25 per cent view 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 fell back 10 points in September. At +42, the latest
        result reflects 57 per cent of respondents who feel it's a good or
        very good time to put money into RRSPs, while 15 per cent said they
        feel it is a bad or very bad time.

    -   Registered Education Savings Plans fell back eight points, to reach
        +33 in the latest poll. Some 49 per cent of those surveyed said now
        is a good time to invest, compared to 16 per cent who disagreed.

    -   At +21, the index for mutual funds was off 10 points from the last
        quarterly survey, reflecting 41 per cent who said now is a good or
        very good time to invest in mutual funds, while 20 per cent said it
        was a bad or very bad time. Another 21 per cent answered that it was
        neither a good or bad time for funds.

    -   Segregated funds, perhaps the least understood of the investment
        vehicles, showed an eight-point decrease in September to stand at

    The poll by Omnitel, a division of Maritz Research, was conducted with
1,000 Canadians aged 18 and older between September 20 and September 23, 2007.
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$410 billion
(US$386 billion) as at June 30, 2007.
    Manulife Financial is one of only two publicly traded life insurance
companies with 'AAA'-rated insurance subsidiaries, the highest rating for
financial strength at Standard & Poor's Rating Services.
    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: Tom Nunn, Manulife Financial, (519) 594-8578,

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