Strong increases in sales of annuities in the earlier parts of 2011 slowed over the course of the year, but still yielded an 8 percent growth over the previous year, according to data released Wednesday by LIMRA.

Industry giant MetLife topped the rankings in domestic business during the fourth quarter of 2011. MetLife and the top 20 firms in the nation sold almost $190.5 billion in annuities, 79 percent of an industry total that reached $240.3 billion over the course of the year.  

MetLife moved more than $30.9 billion during that period, including an industry leading $28.4 billion in variable annuities. MetLife's earnings roundly eclipsed those of second-place Prudential Annuities, whose total sales were $21.3 billion and variable sales were $21.2 billion.

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