Fixed annuity sales rose 10% to $79 billion last year, spurred by higher interest rates and broader marketing efforts, a report said.

Hartford Life Insurance Co., whose expanded sales channels include banks, saw a 429% increase in premiums over 1993, the biggest increase of any insurer tracked in a study by A.M. Best Co., Oldwick, N.J.

The report looks at fixed annuities whose rates are preset and variable annuities whose returns are based on the performance of underlying mutual funds.

Bankers said fixed annuity sales in 1994 were solid, tracking the industry as a whole. Variable annuity sales dropped last year at banks, after growing significantly the year before.

The A.M. Best report found that variable premiums fell by 2%, to $30.6 billion. Six of the top 10 underwriters of variable annuities reported a decline in premiums. This year "the momentum could shift considerably to variable products because of the stock market's strong performance and languishing fixed interest rates," said Roger Blease, a manager at A.M. Best.

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