BOSTON, April 4, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- The John Hancock Investor Sentiment Index® continued its upward trend of the past two quarters, increasing to +23 in the first quarter of 2014 from +22 in the fourth quarter of last year. Also remaining stable is an optimistic financial outlook. Half of investors feel they are in a better financial position today versus two years ago, and 49 percent expect their position will improve two years hence. Moreover, nearly three quarters of those surveyed believe that 2014 will be a positive year for the average US investor. Investors remain positive about investing in stocks, with 61 percent saying it is a good or very good time to invest, and in stock mutual funds (56 percent said the same). Bonds and cash continue to be unpopular vehicles, with respectively 36 percent and 61 percent saying it is a bad or very bad time to invest in those. Retirement investment vehicles are regarded positively by investors, with four out of five saying now is a good time to be putting money in to 401(k) plans (79 percent) and IRAs (77 percent). Half of investors say it is a good time to fund 529 College Savings plans. Optimism has held steady for Target Risk/Lifestyle Funds and for Target Date Funds (with 40 percent of investors saying it is a good or very good time for both). "A majority of investors believe now is a good time to purchase a home (73 percent), while others say it is a good time to spend money on a big ticket purchase (44 percent), sell a home (42 percent), or spend money on travel or vacations (41 percent)," noted Bill Cheney, John Hancock's Chief Economist. "Yet while overall investor sentiment has stayed positive, 21 percent of those we surveyed are very concerned about inflation," he added. "Other top concerns are political gridlock in Washington, DC, with 55 percent citing this as something they are worried about, and the level of the national debt (45 percent), and half are very concerned about the cost of healthcare." In assessing the outlook for the capital markets, investors pick blue chip stocks to perform the best in the next six months (27 percent), followed by small cap stocks (17 percent) and emerging markets investments (11 percent). In the survey, investors think the technology sector (56 percent), healthcare (48 percent) or energy (46 percent) are the most likely to provide the best investment opportunity in the next six months.
About the John Hancock Investor Sentiment SurveyJohn Hancock's Investor Sentiment Survey is a quarterly poll of affluent investors. The survey measures investors' feelings about the current economic climate and their evaluations of what represents a good or bad investment given the current environment. The poll also asks consumers about their confidence in reaching key financial goals and their attitudes toward specific financial products and services. This online survey was conducted by independent research firm Greenwald & Associates. A total of 1,028 investors were surveyed from February 10th to February 24th, 2013. To qualify, respondents were required to participate at least 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 or more. 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 3.12 percentage points at the 95 percent confidence level. About John Hancock Financial and Manulife Financial John Hancock Financial is a division of Manulife Financial, a leading Canada-based financial services group with principal operations in Asia, Canada and the United States. Operating as Manulife Financial in Canada and Asia, and primarily as 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 C$599 billion ( US$563 billion) as at December 31, 2013. 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 manulife.com. The John Hancock unit, through its insurance companies, comprises one of the largest life insurers in the United States. John Hancock offers and administers a broad range of financial products, including life insurance, annuities,investments, 401(k) plans,long-term care insurance,college savings, and other forms of business insurance. Additional information about John Hancock may be found at johnhancock.com. Photo - http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20140404/NE97696 SOURCE John Hancock Financial