Annuities had a less-than-stellar third quarter, according to data from Beacon Research and Morningstar, which the Insured Retirement Institute released this week.

Industrywide third-quarter annuity sales receded to $56.9 billion, falling 5% from the previous quarter and 1% from the same period last year.

Variable annuity sales were relatively flat at $35.2 billion, down 1.1% from the second quarter but up a marginal 0.4% year-over-year.  Sales of fixed annuities, however, posted a sharp decline, tumbling to $21.7 billion. That's a 10.7% decrease from $24.3 billion in the previous quarter and a 3.5% decline from $22.5 billion in the third quarter of 2013, according to Morningstar. 

"Ebbs and flows are normal in the course of an established and mature industry, and the numbers in the third quarter reflect that," Cathy Weatherford, president and CEO of the Insured Retirement Institute, said in a statement.

There were glimmers of good news. While sales of all types of fixed annuities fell from the previous quarter, there were some positive notes in the year-over-year comparisons. Sales of indexed annuities and income annuities remained well above their levels for the same period in 2013. In the third quarter, indexed annuities hauled in nearly $11.7 billion, a 16% jump from nearly $10.1 billion in the third quarter of 2013. Income annuities, meanwhile, brought in $3.11 billion, up 10.5% year-over-year.

Deferred income annuities were also a bright spot, said Weatherford. "Barely a blip in sales a short time ago, sales have since grown to $1 billion in 2012, to $2.2 billion last year, and are on pace to post double-digit growth in 2014. We expect this type of ongoing innovation to contribute meaningfully to overall sales as time goes on," she said.

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