Banks’ combined sales of fixed and variable annuities regained ground lost in July, hitting $2.9 billion in August, level with June’s sales. But most striking was variable annuities’ comeback, up 14% to $1.3 billion, 27% higher than they were in January, said Janet Cappelletti, associate research director at Kehrer-LIMRA, the firm that compiles banks’ annuity sales results.

“May, June and July all saw variable annuity sales coming down, but August redeemed them,” she said. At $1.5 billion, May’s variable-annuity sales mark the high point for the products in 2010. Variable annuities had flatlined for months at $1.1 billion while fixed annuities soared to a high of $2.5 billion in October. Fixed-annuity sales now stand at $1.6 billion.

Cappelletti noted that second-quarter numbers were the first in seven quarters for overall sales of annuities to rise. Second-quarter sales were 16% higher than in the first quarter this year.

Third-quarter figures aren’t yet available, but Cappelletti notes that with the spread between fixed annuities and their fierce rivals CDs now at zero, up from -16 basis points in September, annuity sales figures for the third quarter may be higher still. In variable annuities’ favor, banks’ sales of mutual funds are also up, by 9%, indicating that bank customers’ aversion to market exposure may be softening. Sales of mutual funds and variable annuities tend to move in lockstep. Cappelletti also notes that bank reps’ transactional productivity, or new sales, was up 6% in August.