Total U.S. annuity assets will grow to $2.9 trillion by 2012, expanding by about 7.9% per year, according to Cerulli Associates.

Demographic trends and an interest in income and principal protection will drive the growth, according to Cerulli, Boston.

The qualified variable annuities used in rollovers from employer-sponsored retirement plans have particularly strong growth potential, Cerulli reports.

Asset managers rate prospects for growth 6.2 on a 7-point scale, while insurance company executives give VA growth prospects a 5.4 rating, Cerulli says.

Insurance company executives give the growth prospects for qualified fixed annuities a rating of just 3.4, Cerulli says.

About 67% of advisors say living benefits are highly important in VA selection decisions. Only 8.4% of advisors say VA living benefits are of little significance, Cerulli reports.