A number of U.S. life insurers may report soft profits for the fourth quarter of 2005.

Andrew Kligerman, an analyst at UBS Securities L.L.C., New York, makes that prediction in an earnings preview.

For one thing, mortality was higher than expected, Kligerman notes. He points to a survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, showing that average deaths for the quarter were up about 7% compared with the total for the fourth quarter of 2004.

But Kligerman is seeing much stronger sales of variable annuities and slightly stronger sales of fixed annuities, and he thinks universal life sales probably surged because of a strong demand for products offering secondary guarantees.

Customers are buying UL policies with secondary guarantees now because they expect state adoptions of Actuarial Guideline 38 to lead to stiffer reserving requirements and higher prices, Kligerman says.

Overall, life insurance sales reported for the quarter will be almost level with the sales figures reported a year ago, Kligerman writes.