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High stock prices, and consumers’ hunger for higher returns, are helping to push variable universal life (VUL) insurance sales much higher.

Annualized premiums from new individual VUL policy sales soared 17% between the fourth quarter of 2016 and the fourth quarter of 2017, according to new survey data from LIMRA.

The total amount of death benefits purchased increased 15%, and the number of policies purchased increased 8%.

(Related: Variable Universal Life Sales Take Lead: LIMRA)

VUL also did better than fixed universal life for all of 2017, although universal life sales beat VUL sales on some measures in some quarters. The number of VUL policies sold throughout the year increased 3% between 2016 and 2017, while the number of universal life policies sold fell 6%.

In 2016, universal life sales looked much healthier than VUL sales. The number of VUL policies sold fell 16%; the number of universal life policies sold fell just 6%.

LIMRA, a nonprofit life insurance research group, has reported the findings for the fourth quarter of 2017, and for all of 2017, in a summary of results from its latest quarterly life insurer survey.

LIMRA reports changes in percentage terms but does not publish the underlying sales figures.

LIMRA notes that VUL sales accounted for only about 7% of the U.S. individual life market by premium in the fourth quarter of 2017; universal life sales accounted for a 39% share. But the overall market may be showing some signs of firming up.

For all individual life, the number of policies sold fell 1%. The rate of decline is down from a decrease of 4% in the fourth quarter of 2016.

Similarly, the rate of decrease in the number of new term life policies sold narrowed to 1% in the fourth quarter of 2017, from 4% in the fourth quarter of 2016.

— Read Variable Universal Life Insurance: Weighing the Pros and Cons on ThinkAdvisor.

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