Annuity sales reached $240.3 billion in 2011, an 8% increase compared to 2010, according to a new report. LIMRA, Windsor, Conn., disclosed this finding in its fourth quarter 2011 U.S. Individual Annuities Sales survey, which represents data from 94% of the market.

In the fourth quarter, total annuity sales dropped slightly to $57.4 billion, says LIMRA. After six consecutive quarters of positive growth when compared to the prior year, fourth quarter VA sales were flat, and compared to the prior quarter, VA sales were down four percent, totaling $38.4 billion.

But overall VA sales sustained 13% growth in 2011, growing to $159.3 billion, which exceeds total VA sales from 2008.

Total fixed annuity sales were $19.0 billion, falling two percent in the fourth quarter. In 2011, fixed annuities slipped one percent, to reach $81.0 billion.

Indexed annuity sales remained relatively steady, up one percent in the fourth quarter, compared to prior year, to reach $8.3 billion but down five percent from the prior quarter. Year-to-date, indexed annuities were flat compared to 2010, totaling $32.2 billion.

For the second consecutive quarter, indexed annuity sales outperformed sales of traditional fixed annuities (book-value and market-value adjusted), capturing 44% of the fixed annuity market, LIMRA says.

Fixed immediate annuity sales were a record breaking $8.1 billion in 2011, up seven percent from 2010. In the fourth quarter, immediate annuities grew six percent in the fourth quarter, compared to prior year, to reach $1.9 billion.