Variable annuity sales rose during the first quarter as fixed annuity sales fell.

VA sales climbed 20% between the first quarter of 2005 and the first quarter of 2006, to $39 billion, according to preliminary results from LIMRA International’s latest quarterly annuity sales survey.

FA sales dropped 9%, to $18 billion, over the same period, but the gain in VA production pushed total annuity sales up 9%, to $57 billion, LIMRA says.

LIMRA, a nonprofit Windsor, Conn., market research consortium, says 59 companies participated in the first-quarter survey.

LIMRA breaks out separate sales figures for equity-indexed annuities, immediate annuities and other types of contracts.

EIA sales fell 2%, to $6.3 billion, and LIMRA notes that EIA sales have fallen each quarter since hitting a peak of $7.4 billion in the second quarter of 2005.

Immediate annuities have played a prominent role in discussions about income planning, and LIMRA reports that immediate annuity sales have been strong.

Immediate FA sales increased 17%, to $1.4 billion in the first quarter, while immediate VA sales soared 50%, to $126 million.

Sales of annuities used in structured settlement sales fell 7%, to $1.3 billion.