John Hancock Inaugurates Investor Sentiment Index

Iconic US brand launches its first-ever survey of individuals' attitudes toward investments, life goals and economic outlook

Index debuts with positive investor sentiment

Investors bullish on stocks and mutual funds, wary of cash and bonds; expect growth ahead for U.S. with moderate inflation

BOSTON, March 30, 2011 - John Hancock Financial today announced the results of its first-ever John Hancock Investor Sentiment Index, a quarterly measure of investors' views on a range of investment choices, life goals and economic outlook.

"John Hancock has a longstanding reputation for being in touch with individuals' financial aspirations and needs," said James R. Boyle, President of John Hancock. "This new Index will reinforce our standing as a name consumers know and trust, and our company as a source for solutions to their financial concerns."

For the first quarter of 2011, the John Hancock Investor Sentiment Index score is +22. Responses show this positive sentiment score is driven largely by bullish investor attitudes toward stocks, retirement savings and overall financial position. Confidence in stocks contributed most to the positive score, followed by a somewhat unexpected belief that now is a good time to be putting money into primary residences and other real estate. In contrast, many feel it is a bad time for fixed or liquid investments.

"Our survey indicates that investors' confidence is returning, with six in ten investors believing now is a good or very good time to be investing in stocks," said Bill Cheney, Chief Economist for John Hancock. "However, overall, investors are somewhat concerned about the prospect for moderate inflation, and they do not expect the U.S. to lead the world in growth over the near term."

Mathew Greenwald, President of Mathew Greenwald & Associates, a public opinion and market research firm which conducted the survey, said: "Individuals appear to be in a rebuilding phase. People are starting to regain their faith in the equity market, and also are trying to save as much as they can."

Among the key findings:

  • A majority of investors believe it is a good time to buy stocks (59 percent), stock mutual funds (55 percent), and balanced mutual funds (54 percent).
  • The vast majority of investors surveyed (77 percent) plan on personally investing in stocks this year, and 71 percent are planning to put money in mutual funds.
  • Affluent investors are also bullish on their own retirement prospects. In general, three-quarters believe that now is a good time to be investing in 401(k) plans and Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs).
  • One third of investors surveyed identify saving for retirement as their number one financial goal, with 90 percent expressing confidence in their ability to finance a secure retirement.
  • Regarding their housing situations, investors believe that now is a good time to be putting money into real estate investments (59 percent), or into their own homes (56 percent).
  • Investors are less enthusiastic about holding on to cash right now or putting money into fixed investments. Relatively few think now is a good time to invest in bonds (27 percent) or fixed income mutual funds (27 percent).
  • Half of respondents say they are in a better financial position than two years ago, with nearly 60 percent expecting their financial picture will continue to improve over the next two years.

Regarding prospects for the U.S. economy, nearly half of investors predict that inflation will rise to more than three percent in the coming years, with 18 percent thinking the rate of inflation will exceed four percent in the next two years. Only five percent believe the U.S. will have the fastest-growing economy; 57 percent believe China will grow the fastest, followed distantly by India (14 percent) and Brazil (11 percent).

Spending & Savings Habits

More than three out of four investors in this survey (76 percent) report that they have money left over from their paychecks at least half the time. Typically these funds are transferred to savings accounts (43 percent) or invested (27 percent). A sizeable share of respondents also use the leftover cash to pay down debts (23 percent), which is a top financial goal for one in ten investors.

Of note, one quarter of those working full- or part-time said they did not know that their take-home pay had increased as a result of the recently enacted reduction in Social Security withholdings. Twenty-nine percent devote the extra take-home pay to savings, while others reduce debt (21 percent). Most report they had not yet filed this year's taxes (75 percent), but more than half expect to receive a refund. Many say they will save their refund money (44 percent) or use it for debt reduction (30 percent), but 22 percent plan to spend the tax refund, including half who plan to spend it on a vacation.

About the John Hancock Investor Sentiment Survey
John Hancock's Investor Sentiment Survey is a quarterly poll of investors, conducted by independent research firm Mathew Greenwald & Associates. A total of 1,001 investors were surveyed using an online research panel between February 18 and March 1, 2011. To qualify, respondents were required to participate to some extent in their household's financial decision-making process, have a household income of at least $75,000, and assets of $100,000. The data were weighted by age and education to reflect the population of Americans matching the survey's qualification requirements. In a similarly-sized random sample survey, the margin of error would be plus or minus 3.16 percentage points at the 95 percent confidence level. The Index itself is based on consumer assessments of whether this is a good time or bad time to put money into six different types of investments.

About John Hancock Financial and Manulife Financial Corporation
John Hancock Financial is a unit of Manulife Financial Corporation, a leading Canadian-based financial services group serving millions of customers in 22 countries and territories worldwide. Operating as Manulife Financial in Canada and in most of Asia, and primarily as John Hancock in the United States, Manulife Financial Corporation offers clients a diverse range of financial protection products and wealth management services through its extensive network of employees, agents and distribution partners. For more than 120 years, clients have looked to Manulife for strong, reliable, trustworthy and forward-thinking solutions for their most significant financial decisions. Funds under management by Manulife Financial and its subsidiaries were Cdn$475 billion (US$478 billion) as of December 31, 2010. Manulife Financial Corporation trades as 'MFC' on the TSX, NYSE and PSE, and under '945' on the SEHK. Manulife Financial can be found on the Internet at www.manulife.com. The John Hancock unit, through its insurance companies, comprises one of the largest life insurers in the United States. John Hancock offers a broad range of financial products and services, including life insurance, fixed and variable annuities, fixed products, mutual funds, 401(k) plans, long-term care insurance, college savings, and other forms of business insurance. Additional information about John Hancock may be found at www.johnhancock.com.

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