Two new studies show fixed annuity sales were significantly higher in the first quarter than they were in the first quarter of 2008.

Total annuity sales grew to $66 billion in the quarter, up 6% from $62 billion in the first quarter of 2008, according to LIMRA International’s U.S. Individual Annuities First Quarter 2009 Sales Report.

The surge was due to a 74% sales increase for fixed annuities, from $25 billion in first quarter 2008 to $36 billion in the comparable period of 2009, LIMRA, Windsor, Conn., says.

Variable annuities sold just $301 billion in the first quarter of this year, in sharp contrast to first quarter 2008, when VA contracts outsold FA contracts by $42 billion to $20.5 billion.

Consumers’ recent preference for fixed products was a result of the unstable stock market and a desire for guaranteed rates of return, says Joe Montminy, director of annuity research at LIMRA.

Sales of variable annuities showed double-digit declines for the fourth straight quarter, LIMRA says.

Sales increased for all fixed deferred annuity product-types in the first quarter of 2009, LIMRA found.

Sales of book-value products, the largest fixed annuity type, increased more than 100% during the quarter, to about $19 billion, from $9.2 billion in the first quarter of 2008.

Market-value-adjusted products grew year over year from $2.2 billion to $6.6 billion; indexed annuities, from $5.8 billion to $7 billion; and immediate annuities, from $1.7 billion to $1.9 billion.

Comparable results for fixed products were found in another study, from Beacon Research Inc., Evanston, Ill.

Beacon’s Fixed Annuity Premium Study estimates U.S. sales of fixed annuities amounted to about $35 billion in the first quarter of 2009, up 78% from the comparable period a year earlier.

Beacon estimates first-quarter sales were about $19 billion for book value annuities; $6.5 billion for market value-adjusted annuities; $7.1 billion for indexed annuities; and $2.1 billion for immediate annuities.

LIMRA surveyed 60 annuity carriers for its study. Beacon polled 53.