National poll suggests strong rebound in real estate, equities and mutual funds: Manulife Quarterly Investor Sentiment Index

WATERLOO, ON, April 23 – Canadians are showing
signs of renewed confidence in investing in equities and real estate this spring,
according to a national poll conducted for Manulife Financial, one of Canada’s leading insurance companies.

The latest regular quarterly poll for Manulife conducted in
March shows that many Canadians showed more interest in a range of investments compared to
just three months earlier. Eight of 10 categories in the survey gained ground from mid-December.

“Canadians generally are showing signs of renewed
enthusiasm in a range of markets, particularly in equities and real estate, which is being
borne out by what we’re seeing in the past month in the markets themselves,” said
Bruce Gordon, Manulife’s Executive Vice President of Canadian Operations. “The
positive rebound from what some described earlier this year as a recession could bode well for investors.”

Mr. Gordon said the quarterly poll launched by Manulife
three years ago reflects growing confidence in the market as the North American economy
showed renewed strength this spring. “Manulife offers a range of financial services
to more than 3.5 million Canadians,” said Mr. Gordon. “This index helps us to
better understand how Canadians in general can be affected by changes in the overall
economy and how we might best adapt to those changes.”

Real estate, mutual funds and stocks show strong gains

The overall Spring 2002 Manulife Investor Sentiment Index,
based on a mid- March survey of 1,000 Canadians by Thompson Lightstone & Company,
climbed 10 points to +21 in mid-March. That result reflects renewed interest in real
estate, plus gains for equities, mutual funds and cash. The quarterly index monitors what
Canadians say they feel about 10 different investment categories and vehicles. The index
for each individual category or vehicle reflects the percentage of those surveyed who say
they believe it is a good or very good time to invest — minus the percentage who say it
is a bad or very bad time to invest.

“This remains an important time for investors to work
closely with their advisors, who can take the time to assess their needs and help them
plan for long-term futures, including a review of their guaranteed versus variable
products,” Mr. Gordon said.

Double-digit increases for real estate, cash

Among six investment categories, real estate and cash
showed double-digit increases in their indices, while among investment vehicles, RRSPs and
mutual funds showed strong rebounds. Real estate investments, including their own homes
(mortgages and renovations), and other properties rebounded strongly while stocks also
registered a significant increase.


The following six investment categories, ranked in order, comprise the Manulife
Investor Sentiment Index:

  • Investing in their own homes (either
    renovations or mortgages) remains the most popular investment for Canadians. Traditionally
    the favourite of six investment categories, investing in their own homes shot up 17 points
    to +58 from December. The index reflects 70 per cent of those surveyed who said it’s a
    good or very good time to invest in their homes, minus the 12 per cent who believe it’s a
    bad or very bad time.

  • Real estate other than their own homes was
    the next most popular investment, climbing 16 points to +43 from three months earlier,
    partly reflecting the competitive market for mortgage interest rates.

  • Balanced funds climbed three points to +21
    in March. Almost half (45 per cent) viewed balanced funds as a good or very good place to
    invest in March, compared to 24 per cent who felt the opposite.

  • Concerns about stock markets after the Sept.
    11, 2001 terrorist attacks drove the index for equity holdings into negative territory for
    the first time last September, but it rebounded 14 points to -4 in December and back into
    positive territory in March, at +4. The latest survey found more than a third (36 per
    cent) considered it a good time to invest in stocks, either directly or via mutual funds,
    while 32 per cent said they still view equities as a bad choice. Some 20 per cent felt it
    was neither a good or bad time to buy stocks.

  • Fixed income investments (including GICs,
    annuities) rose two points to +3 in March, down sharply from its high of +33 in mid-2001,
    likely reflecting current low interest rates plus increased confidence in real estate,
    equities and mutual funds.

  • Cash (including savings accounts) remained
    among weakest destinations for investors, climbing back 10 points but still falling in
    negative territory at -6 points.

Investment Vehicles

As well as evaluating the six investment categories above, the same question was asked of
four investment vehicles, with mutual funds registering the largest rebound in March.

  • Registered Retirement Savings Plans remained
    the traditionally most popular investment vehicle by climbing seven points from December.
    The index of +54 for RRSPs reflects 68 per cent of respondents who feel it’s a good or
    very good time to put money into RRSPs while 14 per cent said it was a bad time in mid-March.

  • Interest also eased slightly in Registered
    Education Savings Plans, which rivalled RRSPs in popularity in December for the first time
    in three years. The index for RESPs fell three points in March to +44 from three months earlier.

  • Mutual funds registered the biggest rebound
    among investment vehicles, climbing 12 points following a 16-point climb in December.
    While year-over-year mutual fund sales were down in March, the Manulife index for mutual
    funds now stands at +30. Exactly half of Canadians surveyed thought mutual funds were
    attractive, while one out of five said they remained a bad or very bad target for their money.

  • The index for segregated funds registered a
    marginal decline of three points to +16, with 40 per cent of those surveyed saying it’s a
    good time to invest in segregated funds, compared to 24 per cent stating the opposite.

The poll by Thompson Lightstone was conducted with 1,000
Canadians aged 18 and older between March 14 and March 20, 2002. 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 operating in 15 countries and territories worldwide. Through its extensive
network of employees, agents and distribution partners, Manulife Financial offers clients
a diverse range of financial protection products and wealth management services. Funds
under management by Manulife Financial were Cdn$142.2 billion as at December 31, 2001.

Manulife Financial Corporation trades as ‘MFC’ on the TSE, NYSE and PSE, and under ‘0945’
on the SEHK. Manulife Financial can be found on the Internet at

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