Variable annuity sales results for 2008 reflected the general decline in the equity markets, NAVA Inc. says.

Total VA sales in the United States dropped to $155 billion in 2008, down 15% from the 2007 total, according to NAVA, Reston, Va.

Net VA sales for 2008 were $23 billion, or 15% of total sales. Net sales were down 31% from the 2007 total, NAVA says, citing Morningstar Inc., Chicago, as the data source.

Roughly 45% of the VA assets, or $504 billion, was held in equity accounts at year end, down 43% from the end of 2007, when $889 billion, or 60% of the assets, was held in equity accounts, according to NAVA.

NAVA says 26% of the assets, or $292 billion, was held in fixed accounts at the end of the year–up 14% from the 2007 total.

For the fourth quarter of 2008, total VA sales were $33 billion, down 30% from the total for the fourth quarter of 2007, the association says. The net sales in the fourth quarter were $3.4 billion, down 61.5% from net flows of $8.9 billion in the fourth quarter of 2007.

VA combined assets decreased 13%, to $1.1 trillion, in the fourth quarter of 2008 from the total at the end of the third quarter of 2008, and they decreased 24% from the total at the end of the fourth quarter of 2007.

“Total premiums sales,” also called total premium flows, refers to the sum of new sales and additional premiums from existing contract owners, NAVA says.

“Net sales,” also called net flows, refers to total premium sales minus surrenders, withdrawals, inter- and intra-company exchanges, and benefit payments.