Manulife Investor Sentiment Index shows Canadian investors remain positive through the past five years

WATERLOO, ON, Jan. 7, 2004 – Canadians generally remained consistently positive about investing during the past five years, regardless of the political or economic climate — and display an unwavering focus on property, registered retirement savings and educational savings plans, according to national polls for Manulife Financial, one of Canada’s leading insurance and wealth management companies.

“Since we launched the quarterly Manulife Investor Sentiment Index in early 1999, we’ve seen repeatedly that most Canadians generally prefer to invest in safety and security,” said Bruce Gordon, Manulife Financial Executive Vice President and General Manager of Canadian Operations. “They’re keeping their focus on long-term goals, particularly their homes, retirement and their children’s education.”

During the past five years, the Manulife Investor Sentiment Index has consistently reflected positive results, despite some swings in areas like investing in stocks after the 9/11 terrorist attacks in the United States. The Index peaked at +35 in mid-2000, while it reached a low of +11 in December 2001, just after the 9/11 terrorist attacks in the United States.

“When we started to regularly ask Canadians about their views toward investing, many seemed anxious about Y2K and arrival of the new millennium. When New Year’s Eve passed that year without a major crisis, people began to feel better, only to have market swings later from Enron and WorldCom scandals affect their confidence. Then, of course, the lowest point in the past five years followed the tragic events of September 11, 2001,” said Mr. Gordon.

“Generally, though, Canadians continue to show strong resolve, even in the most difficult times, and now we’re seeing renewed strength amid a more stable investment climate,” Mr. Gordon noted. The 20th quarterly survey for the index, released today, shows every investment area and vehicle gained strength in December for the first time in five years.

Launched in April 1999, the Manulife Investor Sentiment Index is based on quarterly surveys of more than 1,000 Canadians, monitoring attitudes towards investing in 10 different investment categories and vehicles. The index for each individual category or vehicle reflects the percentage of those surveyed who say it is a good or very good time to invest, minus the percentage saying it is a bad or very bad time to invest.

“Manulife offers a wide range of financial services and products to more than 3.5 million Canadians and the Index helps us gauge what Canadians generally are saying about where they favour investing in the prevailing economy,” Mr. Gordon said.

In each of the past 20 surveys, the Manulife Investor Sentiment Index found Canadians like to invest in their own homes, RRSPs and RESPs – which consistently received top marks as investment destinations and tools.

Canadians’ general focus on investing in property was clear during the last five years. Investing in land – whether in homes or investment property – generally scored about 30 points higher than most other areas. Over time, the overall Manulife Investor Sentiment Index swung within a 24-point window, yet investing in homes and investment property remained within nine points — and always at the top of the list.

“Given feelings towards safety and stability, it’s not surprising that many people prefer investing in their own homes and investment properties,” said Mr Gordon. “Interest rates have been favourable, especially for first-time buyers.”

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$150.8 billion as at September 30, 2003.

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