MetLife (MET) earned $286 million in the third quarter ended Sept. 30, or 32 cents per share, benefiting from improved investment income and strong U.S. annuity sales. The insurance giant lost $650 million during the same quarter a year ago, or 79 cents a share. The company reported third-quarter revenue of $12.44 billion up from $10.24 billion in the year-ago period. Operating earnings were 99 cents per share, up 14% from 87 cents in the year-ago period, but missing analysts' consensus estimate of $1.03 a share. MetLife said it had strong U.S. annuity sales of $5 billion, up 25% from  the third quarter of 2009. Premiums, fees and other revenue for insurance products were $5 billion, down slightly as growth in the group life and nonmedical health businesses was offset by lower individual life revenue. For the nine months ended Sept. 30, earnings were $2.62 billion, compared to a loss of $2.66 billion in the year-ago period. Revenue for the first nine months was $39.89 billion, compared to $28.72 billion for the first nine months of 2009. Write to Kerry Curry. The author holds no relevant investments.