Higher variable annuity prices held back new deposits at MetLife Inc. in the third quarter as investment losses pushed the insurer to its third quarterly loss in a row.

The $1.4 billion of investment losses included $857 million driven by derivative losses. MetLife's improving credit profile caused it to reverse accounting gains it took last year on the value of its variable annuity guarantees.

Much of the rest of its investment losses were driven by credit-related losses and impairments in the value of some invested assets.

But the life insurer's operating earnings rose 18% "despite the current economic challenges," Chief Executive C. Robert Henrikson said in a press release last week.

Annuity deposits fell 6% in the quarter, to $4 billion, from the year earlier. Variable annuity deposits fell 9%, to $3.4 billion, offsetting the 19% increase in fixed annuity deposits, to $600 million.

For the quarter, MetLife reported a loss of $620 million, or 79 cents a share, compared with earnings of $630 million, or 83 cents a share, a year earlier. Operating earnings, excluding realized capital gains and losses, rose 3 cents, to 87 cents.

Revenue fell 23%, to $10.2 billion, largely on the investment losses. Premiums slid 2.7%. The average of analysts' estimates was for earnings of 87 cents on revenue of $12.25 billion, according to a Thomson Reuters survey.

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