Drop follows major leap in previous quarter
WATERLOO, ON, April 19 2007 – 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 equities.”
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 Canada.”
“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.
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 at www.manulife.com