Nov. 16 (Bloomberg) -- MetLife Inc., the largest U.S. life insurer, kept the top spot in variable-annuity sales in the third quarter as it cut rates and customers looked for a consistent return amid equity-market declines.
MetLife, based in New York, sold $8.56 billion of the retirement products, compared with $4.66 billion a year earlier, trade group Limra said today on its website. U.S. sales industrywide rose to $40.2 billion from $34.9 billion.
“Consumers’ demand for guaranteed lifetime income helped sustain variable-annuity sales,” Joseph Montminy, assistant vice president for Limra annuity research, said today in a statement. “The equity markets in the third quarter were the most volatile we have experienced since the financial crisis began in late 2008.”
The Standard and Poor’s 500 Index slipped 14 percent in the third quarter. MetLife’s rate reduction this year caused a “fire-sale” effect in variable annuities, William Mullaney, president of the insurer’s U.S. business, said in an earnings conference call Oct. 28.
MetLife rose about 1 percent to $32.52 at 2:49 p.m. in New York and has declined 27 percent this year.
--Editors: Dan Reichl, William Ahearn
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