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Although total fixed annuity sales were down quarter-over-quarter and year-over-year, income and indexed annuities fared a bit better. That was the finding of a Q1 report from Beacon Research.

According to its “Fixed Annuity Premium Study,” Beacon found that overall fixed annuity sales amounted to $16.9 billion in the first quarter, down 2.2% from the $17.3 billion sold in the fourth quarter of last year and a decrease of 8.8% from Q1 2011’s tally of $18.6 billion.

Variable annuity sales also dipped in the first quarter.

In the indexed annuity sector, sales inched down 2.2% between the first quarter of this year and the fourth quarter of 2011, dropping from $8.4 billion to $8.2 billion. However, year-over-year, sales increased 8.9%from $7.5 billion to $8.2 billion.

The same pattern was evidenced in the income annuity space. First-quarter sales of $2.15 billion represented a 3% drop from the fourth-quarter 2011 number of $2.22 billion. Yet the Q1 total was nearly 23% higher than the first-quarter 2011 sum of $1.8 billion.

The Beacon report further points out that for the first time, the quarter’s best-selling product was an income annuity, New York Life’s Lifetime Income Annuity. Other top sellers were annuities from Aviva, Allianz Life and American Equity.

In a statement, Beacon CEO Jeremy Alexander said that demand for guarantees and reliable retirement income helped both product types overcome lower interest rates. He further noted that indexed annuity cap rates “looked comparatively good relative” to CD and annuity fixed rates.

Breaking it down further by product type, Fixed Rate Non-MVA (market value adjustments) annuities saw sales decline 2.9% between the first quarter and the fourth$5.25 billion from $5.4 billion. The drop was even more severe on an annual basis. In the first quarter of last year, sales reached $7.8 billion, a drop of 32.6% from the first quarter of this year.

Fixed-Rate MVA annuities fared somewhat more favorably. Sales edged up 1.6%, improving from $1.34 billion in Q4 2011 to $1.36 billion in the first quarter. In comparison to the first quarter of last year, sales dropped 10.4% from that quarter’s total of $1.5 billion

Allianz Life held onto the top spot in fixed annuity sales with a total of nearly $1.5 billion. Next up was Aviva USA ($1.2 billion); New York Life ($1.1 billion) and American Equity, which entered the top five for the first time with sales of $979 million. Rounding out the top five was Great American at $773 million.

“As carriers respond to the low-rate environment, we expect to see more MVAs, unbundled product features, and GLWB rollup rates that vary based on credited interest,” Alexander said in a statement.

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