* Q4 EPS C$0.51 vs yr-ago share loss C$1.24
* Below expectations
TORONTO, Feb 11 (Reuters) - Manulife Financial Corp (MFC.TO) reported a fourth-quarter profit on Thursday, reversing big losses a year earlier, as stock market gains and higher sales of wealth management products boosted income.
Still, North America’s largest life insurer missed expectations and said it still had room to improve earnings after a tough 2009.
Toronto-based Manulife said it had net income of C$868 million ($819 million), or 51 Canadian cents a share, for the final quarter of 2009. That compares with a loss of C$1.87 billion, or C$1.24 a share, for the fourth quarter of 2008.
The fourth quarter results included a charge of C$147 million for refinements to previously implemented changes in actuarial methods. Insurers typically change the assumptions on which they value long-term assets and liabilities at least once a year, as Manulife did in the third quarter.
Analysts on average were expecting the company to earn 69 Canadian cents a share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S. It was not immediately clear whether or not the estimate included the charge.
Shares of the Toronto-based company were down 31 Canadian cents at C$19.19 in early trade on the Toronto Stock Exchange. ($1=$1.06 Canadian) (Reporting by Andrea Hopkins, editing by Gerald E. McCormick)