American International Group Inc. reported a 51% jump in net income for the second quarter thanks in part to strong gains at its foreign life insurance and retirement business. [@@]

Early today, Reuters suggested that market happiness with AIG’s results was helping to push up the price of all U.S. stocks.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average index ended up falling, but the price of AIG’s own shares increased 1.34%, to $62.24.

AIG, New York, is reporting $4 billion in net income for the latest quarter on $27 billion in revenue, up from $2.7 billion in net income on $23 billion in revenue for the comparable period in 2004.

Although domestic life and retirement operating income increased only 5% and sales volume fell at some AIG agencies, total foreign annuity production rose 43%. First-year premium growth in Japan climbed 32%.

AIG Chief Executive Officer Martin Sullivan refused today during AIG’s earnings conference call to answer any questions about regulatory investigations.

At the domestic life business, the advisor-driven brokerage program and a program aimed at wealthy investors did well toward the end of the second quarter, but “the domestic retirement services business continued to be affected by challenging market conditions,” Sullivan said. “The second-quarter sales environment for individual variable annuities was affected by lackluster domestic equity markets.”

Tough competition and decreases in the gap between short-term interest rates and long-term interest rates hurt fixed annuity sales, Sullivan said.

Sullivan surprised some members of the conference call audience by stating that he had not read former AIG Chairman Maurice Greenberg’s analysis of the motives behind AIG’s recent financial restatements.

Although some “unusual items” increased AIG’s second-quarter earnings, others cut net income, and securities analysts praised the company’s performance.

Peter Streit, an analyst at Williams Capital Group L.P., New York, is calling the second-quarter results “outstanding.”

“They were much better than expected in domestic and foreign property-casualty, and foreign life and retirement services,” Streit says.

All of the regulatory scrutiny and financial restatements hurt transaction volumes and made AIG agents wary early in the second quarter, but “in the last month of the quarter and in the month of July, AIG has seen that trend beginning to reverse,” Streit says.