U.S. annuity sales are on a roll, posting the highest first quarter overall total in a decade.

Leading the way are fixed annuity sales, which totaled $38 billion in the first quarter, according to the LIMRA SRI First Quarter 2019 Retail Annuity Sales Survey, a 38 percent jump over the first quarter of last year.

Fixed annuity sales have outperformed variable annuity sales in 11 of the last 13 quarters and they represent 63 percent of overall annuity sales, according to the survey. Annuity sales overall were $60.8 billion, an increase of 17 percent over the first quarter 2018 results.

Indexed annuity sales totaled $18 billion, an increase of 24 percent in the first quarter, marking the third consecutive first quarter growth for indexed sales.

Todd Giesing, LIMRA’s annuity research director, said this is the strongest start for fixed annuities.

“The uptick in fixed annuity sales continued the momentum fixed annuities experienced in 2018, and was bolstered by recent volatile equity markets, which had investors seeking solutions with guarantees,” he said in a released comment.

Among providers, AIG was once more on top with a total of $3.9 billion in first quarter fixed annuity sales. New York Life followed with $3.3 billion and Global Atlantic Group rounded out the top three with $2.3 billion in fixed annuity sales. AIG also had $1.4 billion in variable annuity sales.

LIMRA’s survey also reported an increase in sales of fixed-rate deferred annuities, which were $15.1 billion in the first quarter, up from $8.7 billion from first quarter 2018 results. The group pointed out that after multiple quarters of following the 10-year treasury rate, fixed-rate deferred sales rose 68 percent despite declines in the treasury rate growth.

The significant turbulence in the equity markets in the fourth quarter 2018 really sparked a flight to safety, Giesing said. “This resulted the highest level of first quarter sales for indexed annuities we have ever seen, and the highest level of fixed rate deferred sales since 2009.”

Single premium immediate annuity sales had a $2.8 billion record first quarter, up 33 percent compared with prior year results. Deferred income annuity sales increased 23 percent in the first quarter of 2019 to $633 million. DIA sales have remained in the $520-$660 million range for the past 10 quarters, LIMRA said.

After several quarters of consecutive declines, variable annuities saw a slight uptick in overall yearly sales at the end of 2018, but continue to lag. In the first quarter, variable annuity sales totaled $22.8 billion, down 7 percent from the prior year.

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