First quarter 2006 individual life insurance sales rose 15% in new annualized premiums over the first quarter of 2005, according to LIMRA International.

LIMRA’s latest survey shows the number of policies sold remained even with the same period last year, while face amounts rose an average of 4%.

The strongest increases were in universal life and variable universal life products, where annual premiums were up 26% and 15%, respectively.

This is only the second time in five years that VUL posted a double-digit quarterly increase, LIMRA noted.

Fixed-premium products, term and whole life insurance, showed premium increases of 5% and 3%, respectively.

Sales for variable life were down 14% in the quarter compared to the year before.

In the first quarter last year, sales of all products were down except for UL, noted LIMRA vice president Elaine Tumicki, head of its product research.

Early 2005 sales likely were depressed by potential changes to reserve requirements for UL and proposed legislation that would have permanently repealed the estate tax, LIMRA said.

“In addition to comparing to low 2005 sales, the surge in 2006 may be related to several factors, including a stronger equities market as well as premium financing and investor- and corporate-owned life insurance,” Tumicki said.

The group believes this year’s first-quarter sales were also boosted by a strong stock market.