As carriers continue to raise variable annuity fees due to the increased cost of guaranteeing income, sales continue to weaken; in the quarter ended Dec. 31, sales dropped 3.6% to $32.6 billion, compared to $33.8 billion in the year-earlier period, according to LIMRA International. In the third quarter, VA sales fell 16%.

Mark Grier, vice chairman of Prudential, which lost $1 billion in 2008 when the S&P 500 dropped 38%, said in a recent investor call: “We’re not pricing to aggressively gain share. We’re not buying share at the expense of future profitability.”

Jafor Iqbal, associate managing director of retirement research at LIMRA, told Bloomberg, “Some of the companies found that the risk associated with the product was not aligned with the prices, so the price went up. But we have seen them start to settle down with the pricing adjustment in the fourth quarter.”

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