TORONTO -- Manulife Financial Corp. posted record earnings last year as it swung to a $593-million profit in the fourth quarter.

The Toronto-based insurer says it earned $4.8 billion in net income attributable to shareholders in 2018, up from $2.7 billion in 2017 when it took a $2.8-billion charge related to U.S. tax reform and faced hurricane-relate charges.

Adjusted profits grew 23 per cent to $5.6 billion from $4.6 billion a year earlier.

In the fourth quarter, it earned 28 cents per diluted share for the period ended Dec. 31, compared with a loss of 83 cents per share or $1.6 billion a year earlier.

Excluding one-time items, quarterly adjusted earnings increased 11 per cent to $1.3 billion, or 86 cents per share, from $1.2 billion or 59 cents per share in the prior year.

The increase was mainly driven by new business growth in Asia, the impact of lower U.S. tax rates and expense efficiency, partially offset by the impact of lower equity markets.

Sales increased 14 per cent to $1.5 billion in the quarter, but were off three per cent to $5.5 billion for the full year.