NU Online News Service, Feb. 5, 2004, 6:01 p.m. EST – John Hancock Financial Services Inc., Boston, says the annuity market was too risky for its taste in late 2003.[@@]

The company is reporting a $72.1 million in net income for the fourth quarter of 2003 on $2.9 billion in revenue, compared with $96.6 million in net income on $2.3 billion in revenue for the fourth quarter of 2002.

The rising stock market and a modest increase in interest rates helped improve income on asset-management products, and long term care insurance sales increased 13%, to $52.9 million.

But Hancock says it let fixed annuity sales fall to $325.6 million, down 42.6% from the total for the fourth quarter of 2002, to maintain pricing discipline.

The company says it let sales of variable annuities fall 39.1%, to $108 million, because of “aggressive competition from peers offering products with higher-risk guarantee features.”