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T. Rowe Price Associates, Baltimore, has unveiled a unique software program to sell its new no-load variable annuity.

The Variable Annuity Analyzer, introduced Sept. 13, is offered free via a toll-free number.

The software lets investors compare the new low-cost annuity with various types of mutual funds.

Bates Worldwide, New York, handled creative for the promotion, which is appearing in magazines and newspapers and also via direct mail, according to Joe Healy, VP at T. Rowe Price. The fulfillment kit containing the software was designed by 212 Associates, New York.

"It's really a terrific product," said Jennifer Strickland, an analyst at Morningstar Inc., Chicago.

T. Rowe Price is seeking to tap a growth explosion in variable annuities, particularly among younger and upscale consumers. In 1994, a total of $50 billion in variable annuities were sold, up from $17 billion in 1991, according to Boston consultant Cerulli Associates.

Direct marketers such as Fidelity Investments have captured about 5% of the market, up from almost nothing two years ago, said Mary McAvity an analyst at Cerulli. Most annuities currently are sold by insurance agents.

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