Investor sentiment reached its highest level of the past three years during the first quarter of 2013, said Boston-based John Hancock, which has been maintaining a quarterly investor confidence index since 2011.

As concern over many national issues declined, the index posted a first-quarter reading of 24, up from a fourth-quarter 2012 reading of 18.

Compared with the last three months of 2012, a significantly larger share of investors think that now is a good time to invest in stocks (58 percent versus 48 percent in the fourth quarter of 2012), John Hancock said.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

“We are seeing a remarkable shift in sentiment on the part of investors,” Bill Cheney, John Hancock’s chief economist, said in a statement. “They are showing much more optimism about their financial positions overall. More than 70 percent say that 2013 will be a positive year for the average U.S. investor (72 percent), and two-thirds (68 percent) are optimistic that two years from now, the U.S. economy will be stronger. Just about half (48 percent) say their financial position is better now than it was in 2011.”

John Hancock operates as the US unit of Manulife Financial, a large Canadian-based financial services company.