Prudential Financial Inc
, the No. 2 U.S. life insurer, said on Wednesday it had a third-quarter profit, reversing a year earlier loss, on record annuity sales and better performance in its investment portfolios.

Given the rally in equity markets and narrower credit spreads, Prudential forecast higher earnings for the full year. On an operating basis, the results beat Wall Street expectations, sending shares slightly higher.

While U.S. life insurers were badly hurt by higher costs on stock market-linked annuities and massive investment losses in late 2008 and into this year, Prudential and its larger rival MetLife Inc , which reported results last week, have emerged in a position to take business from weakened rivals.

Newark, New Jersey-based Prudential said adjusted operating earnings, which exclude investment gains and losses, were $733 million, or $1.59 a share, compared with $430 million, or $1.02 cents a share in the same quarter last year.

On that basis, analysts on average had expected Prudential to earn $1.33 a share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

The company forecast full-year adjusted earnings per share of between $5.40 and $5.60, higher than an earlier range of $5.00 to $5.20.

Prudential's net income was $1.09 billion or $2.35 a share, compared with a net loss of $118 million, or 25 cents a share, in the year-earlier quarter.

In the quarter, individual annuity sales rose to a record high of $5.9 billion in the quarter, up from $2.5 billion a year ago. Unrealized losses in its investment portfolio also narrowed significantly.

Shares closed down 45 cents at $46.56 in the regular session on Wednesday, but pulled back 19 cents of the loss after hours.

(Reporting by Lilla Zuill and Elinor Comlay, editing by Leslie Gevirtz)