Net sales of variable annuities surged in the third quarter of 2011, reaching their highest level since the comparable period in 2007, according to a new study.

The Insured Retirement Institute, Washington, D.C., published this finding in a summary of results from a third quarter survey of annuity sales. IRI carried out the survey in collaboration with Beacon Research, Evanston, Ill., and the investment research firm Morningstar, Chicago.

Net variable annuity sales totaled $8.9 billion in the third quarter, up 38% from the $6.4 billion posted in the year-ago period. The current quarter's total variable annuity sales—net sales plus surrenders, withdrawals, inter- and intra-company changes and benefit payments—reached $39.1 billion, a 15% gain from the $34 billion recorded in the third quarter of 2010.

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