Whirlpool and Electrolux said shoppers will have to shell out more money to buy washers and dryers this year as the companies pay more for steel, copper and oil.

The appliance makers, which reported quarterly earnings on Wednesday and beat expectations, said the price increases were only natural considering the rapid rise in material costs this year.

Industry leader Whirlpool, maker of Maytag and KitchenAid appliances, said it now sees raw material and oil-related cost inflation in 2011 of $400 million to $450 million, up about $150 million from its prior outlook.

Smaller rival Electrolux of Sweden, the industry No. 2 with brands such as AEG and Frigidaire, forecast raw material cost increases of 2 billion crowns ($328.6 million) this year.

(For a graphic comparing Whirlpool with Electrolux, see http://r.reuters.com/vyw29r.)

Like Whirlpool, Electrolux has announced price rises and expects them to stick. Price hikes in North America have averaged 4 percent, and the group wants increases in Europe and Latin America as well.

Whirlpool raised prices around the globe in April, with the increases varying from market to market.

Our priority is to expand our operating margins, particularly in an environment where raw materials have been escalating like they have. We are not chasing share, Whirlpool CEO Jeff Fettig said.

Some analysts worry that price increases will not be accepted by bargain-hungry shoppers and will eventually hurt demand.

I think some will stick in the premium appliance lines, maybe not so much on smaller home goods, said analyst Brian Sozzi at Wall Street Strategies.

Some of Whirlpool's sales gains in the first quarter likely reflected buying sparked by the company's announcement that price would rise in April, Longbow Research's David MacGregor and Keybanc Capital Markets' Kenneth Zener have said.


Whirlpool and Electrolux see a modest pick-up in sales growth in core North American and European markets this year. Whirlpool also issued a stronger-than-expected full-year forecast.

A sluggish economy and weak housing market had dented sales in North America, but the companies are now profiting amid signs of a U.S. recovery.

The earnings reports came the day after data showed U.S. consumers had perked up a bit in April as they worried less about inflation and the job market.

Confidence is ultimately key, Sozzi said. I think the homeowners said, 'OK, we are feeling a little bit better. Let's replenish some of the appliances that we have held onto.'

U.S. shoppers are also opening their wallets for furniture and other pricey goods, analysts say.

Nevertheless, the biggest sales driver will continue to be the fast-growing Latin American and Asian markets, fueled by the purchasing power of a burgeoning middle class.

Whirlpool forecast full-year U.S. industry unit shipments would rise by 2 percent to 3 percent, while Electrolux see demand rising in North America by 3 percent to 5 percent.

In Europe, the Middle East and Africa, Whirlpool expects growth of 2 to 4 percent, compared with Electrolux's view of 2 percent.

The outlook for other regions was more dynamic, with Whirlpool expecting industry shipments to rise 5 percent to 10 percent in Latin America and 6 percent to 8 percent in Asia.

($1=6.087 Swedish Crown)

(Reporting by Patrick Lannin and Dhanya Skariachan; Editing by David Cowell and John Wallace)