Variable annuities (VA) sales experienced a rough start to 2009—a decline of 26% in the first six months of the year. But, the fourth quarter numbers—up 3% to $32.6 bllion—softened the blow. VA sales were only down 18% for the year, as quarterly VA sales slowly improve from the first quarter, according to LIMRA's U.S. Individual Annuities quarterly sales survey. VA sales totaled $127 billion.

“The last time VA sales were at this level was in 2003, at the end of the last financial crisis,” said Joe Montminy, assistant VP and research director for LIMRA's annuity research. “VA sales experienced significant losses from the third quarter of 2008 through first quarter 2009 and while we are seeing VAs slowly recover, the recovery is slower than expected. We attribute this partly to a decline in 1035 exchanges.”

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