* Rebounds from year-before loss due to smaller hit from markets
* Earnings excluding items miss analysts' estimate
TORONTO, Aug 8 (Reuters) - Manulife Financial Corp on Thursday reported a second-quarter profit, just missing analysts' estimates, as it absorbed a smaller loss from financial market movements.
Canada's largest life insurer said its net profit was C$259 million ($248.45 million), or 12 Canadian cents a share, compared with a year-before loss of C$281 million, or 17 Canadian cents a share.
The company took a C$242 million charge due to movements in equity and bond markets during the quarter, but that was down sharply from the C$996 million markets-related charge of a year earlier.
Stripping out the market impact and certain investment losses, the Toronto-based company earned 31 Canadian cents per share. Analysts on average had expected a profit of 34 Canadian cents, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
Manulife has spent the last few years working to reduce its markets exposure, after falling stock prices and bond yields led to massive quarterly losses following the 2008 financial crisis and market crash.
Besides its Canadian operations, Manulife owns U.S. insurer John Hancock and is growing rapidly in Asia, where it is present in about a dozen countries.
Core earnings, which exclude the impact of financial markets, rose 12 percent in the company's Canadian business and 39 percent in the U.S. division, but fell 21 percent in the Asian unit.
Manulife also said it maintained its key earnings objective of C$4 billion in core profit by 2016.
Late on Wednesday, Sun Life Financial said its second-quarter profit more than quadrupled due to a stronger contribution from financial markets, but the company, Canada's No. 3 insurer, cut its main earnings objective.