Variable annuity total sales rose nearly 5% in second quarter 2009 from the first quarter, according to the Insured Retirement Institute, Washington, D.C.

Second quarter sales of $31.8 billion were up nearly 5% from $30.4 billion in first quarter, but still down by nearly 4.5% from fourth quarter 2008, when total sales were $33.3 trillion, reports IRI, formerly known as NAVA.

Net sales in second quarter 2009 were $6.1 billion. That is also up from first quarter when net sales were $5.1 billion, says the association, which obtains its statistics from Morningstar, Inc., Chicago. Second quarter net sales were also up from fourth quarter 2008, when net sales were $4.2 billion.

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

Qualified VA sales came in second quarter were $23.4 billion, and non-qualified sales were $8 billion, the association says.

Combined net assets for VAs totaled over $1.19 trillion in second quarter 2009, an increase of more than 11% over $1.06 trillion in first quarter.

It was the highest quarter-to-quarter increase of combined net assets in at least the past 17 quarters, IRI says.