John Hancock Financial

(JHF)

said Thursday that it beat Wall Street's earnings estimates for the fourth quarter by 2 cents, thanks to strength in its traditional life, long-term care insurance, fixed annuities and mutual funds lines.

The insurance and financial services company said operating income totaled $181 million, or 58 cents a share in the period, up from the $139.8 million, or 44 cents a share, in the year-ago period. Eighteen analysts polled by

First Call/Thomson Financial

were calling for the company to earn 56 cents in the quarter.

Hancock, which is based in Boston, also said it was comfortable with its previous guidance of earnings growth of 10% to 12% for 2001. "We expect somewhat slower growth in the first quarter or so, with momentum accelerating in the second half of the year," the company said in a press release. Wall Street is expecting the company to earn 61 cents in the first quarter and $2.60 for 2001.

Revenue for the quarter totaled $2.025 billion, down slightly from $2.032 billion a year ago.