Whirlpool ( WHR) shares rallied Tuesday as the home appliance maker boosted earnings estimates. The Benton Harbor, Mich., maker of ovens and washing machines said it expects first-quarter core earnings to rise 15%-20% from the year-ago $1.10 a diluted share. That puts the first-quarter EPS forecast at around $1.27-$1.32 a share, which is well above the $1.23 analyst consensus quoted by Thomson Financial/FirstCall. In offering the strong forecast Whirlpool cited "improved U.S. appliance industry conditions in January and February," and suggested it may boost its 5%-10% 2002 earnings growth target should conditions continue to improve. Whirlpool also put total restructuring charges, arising out of a plan it rolled out in December 2000, at $300 million to $350 million. The company expects to take $100 million to $150 million of those this year. Whirlpool shares rose $3.04 to $71.29 Tuesday. TheStreet.com's Peter Eavis has
examined the company in the past; skeptics say the core earnings figures the company uses overstate its true growth and that Whirlpool's restructuring efforts hide the true cost of its business. Whirlpool has strenuously denied those accusations and stood by its financial reports.