Bank sales of annuities may have started out the year on the wrong foot—January was down 24% on an already weak December—but they fought back, rising 15% in February and again by 28% in March, according to the Kehrer-Jackson Monthly Bank Annuity Sales Survey.

March annuity sales through banks totaled $3.3 billion, strong in both fixed and variable products, something Kehrer-LIMRA, the publisher of the report, says is a rare occurrence.

Fixed annuity sales totaled $1.8 billion, up 25% on February’s figures. While this figure pales in comparison with February 2009’s $3.9 billion in sales, it’s the highest fixed annuities have hit since their October 2009 spike of $2.5 billion.

Meanwhile, variable annuities’ March sales were $1.4 billion, up 31% from February and year to date. VA sales haven’t been this high since August 2008. Bank-sold mutual funds reached $5.5 billion over the same period, up 17% from February to reach their highest point since January 2008.

“March was a fantastic month,” said Janet Cappelletti, associate research director at Kehrer-LIMRA. However, she notes there are a number of caveats. March usually experiences an up tick, typically 50% over February. April sales slip from March, and did so by around 15% in 2009.

Further sullying bank brokerage’s chances at sustained growth, both variable annuities and mutual funds follow the market, which rallied in March. “After March it tanked, which doesn’t bode well for April,” Cappelletti said. Kehrer-LIMRA is midway through gathering data for April’s sales, she says.

On the fixed-annuity front, the product got a jolt from IRA season in March, but the spread between CD rates and annuities stopped being flat in May, when CD rates edged above fixed annuities for the first time in the two years Kehrer-LIMRA has been publishing this report. “That’s not a good sign” for fixed annuities’ sales prospect, Cappelletti said. “

It’s great news for March, but it’s not great news” for the following months, she said.


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