Total U.S. individual annuity sales climbed to $60 billion during the first quarter, up 16% from the total for the first quarter of 2010, according to LIMRA.

LIMRA, Windsor, Conn., says the 59 insurers that participated in its first-quarter annuity sales survey said sales of variable annuities increased 24%, to $40 billion.

Sales of fixed annuities increased 5%, to $20 billion, and sales of indexed annuities increased 1%, to $7.1 billion, LIMRA says.

Another annuity market tracker, AnnuitySpecs.com, Pleasant Hill, Iowa, agrees that indexed annuity sales totaled $7.1 billion in the first quarter, but it says that amount represents an increase of 5% from the total for the comparable period in 2010.

Variable annuity sales “benefited from the positive equity market trend and consumers putting money back into the market,” says Joseph Montminy, a LIMRA annuity specialist.

Fixed annuity sales benefited from strong demand for fixed-rate deferred products and for book value annuities, LIMRA says.

Sheryl Moore, president of AnnuitySpecs.com, says indexed annuity sellers are struggling with the effects of low interest rates.

Although growth in sales of indexed annuities has cooled, sales of indexed life insurance increased to $203 million in the first quarter, up 42% from the total for the first quarter of 2010, Moore says.

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