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Shares of appliance maker Whirlpool (NYSE: WHR) jumped 25% last year, according to data provided by S&P Global Market Intelligence.
That performance trounced the broader market, which rose by 10% for the year. However, Whirlpool stock remains well below the all-time high it set in early 2015.
Last year's stock spike came as the company outperformed low expectations. After all, shares lost 22% in the prior year as sales growth slowed to a crawl in the key U.S. market while rising costs threatened to sink profit growth.
Revenue trends haven't improved much since then, but investors have seen solid progress on the financial side of the business. Through the first three quarters of the year, sales are flat but earnings are up 17%. Gross profit margin ticked up slightly in the core U.S. market and rose significantly in other world geographies to help overall profitability rise by 0.6 percentage points to 17.5% of sales.
Meanwhile, discipline around costs has pushed operating profit higher by a full percentage point to 7% of sales. "We are pleased with strong revenue growth, market share gains and ongoing margin expansion in North America and Latin America that overcame industry softness and currency volatility," Chief Operating Officer Marc Bitzer explained in a late-October press release.
Whirlpool believes the fundamental drivers of its business, including rising housing starts and home sales in the U.S. and steady economic growth elsewhere, are long-term trends that should eventually win out over temporary demand disruptions like the consumer confidence dip around the U.S. presidential election and economic dislocations in places like Brazil.
Until that rebound gains steam, though, management is focused on cutting costs so that earnings growth continues at the hefty 18% pace it managed in the last complete fiscal year.
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