When it comes to the domestic economy, I think the recovery process will take longer than some think and that it may take years for the consumer to fully recover. That said, I firmly believe that it will eventually happen. And as the economy does come back, there are a number of things that are likely to be in big demand with consumers. Among them are home appliances. So, with that in mind, let's take a look at Whirlpool (NYSE:WHR).

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The Big Picture
If and when the economy does show some real power I think that consumers will be spending their money on things that they need and have held off on during the recession, things like washers and mixers and refrigerators. That said, even if the economy does take a bit longer than some expect to come back in earnest, there are some appliances we'd have trouble living without. And so, when these appliances break down, some will have little or no choice but to replace them.

Near-Term Positives
Aside from the eventual economic recovery, there are also several reasons to like the stock right now. The first thing that I see when I see this company is solid earnings. In fact, data shows that the company has beaten expectations three quarters straight, which is an attractive record. Also, Whirlpool's expected to earn a hefty $4.28 this year and $5.18 next year. In other words, the company trades at about 19 times this year's estimate, but Wall Street essentially thinks it can grow about 21% from this year to next. That is impressive given the still weak economy.

The company just released its third-quarter earnings this past Friday. In the period ended September 30, Whirlpool earned $1.15, whereas analysts were expecting 77 cents. But what I was paying even more attention to was the following line in the release: "For the full-year 2009, Whirlpool Corporation expects earnings per diluted share to be approximately $4.25 compared with the prior expectation of $3.50 to $4.00 per diluted share." That is a considerable bump up in the outlook and it's bound to draw a sizable amount of institutional retail and focus to the shares. If I'm correct in my assumption, I suppose the stock could hit a new high in the very near-term.

Other Appliance Plays Worth A Look
Whirlpool doesn't have a monopoly on appliances, and General Electric (NYSE:GE) has a good chance to show earnings growth in the coming years. GE sells appliances and has an excellent reputation in the aviation space as well. As things stand now, the company trades at 15 times the $1 per share analysts estimate the company will earn in 2009.

Another great way to play the appliance business would be to check out Best Buy (NYSE:BBY), which has a very reputable name, trades near its 52-week high and can be bought for about 13 times this year's estimate. Finally, I have been and continue to be a sizable proponent of Minnesota-based discounter Target (NYSE:TGT), which I think will grow sharply in the years to come. It trades at just 16 times this year's estimate and at about 14 times next year's estimate.

Bottom Line
I am not certain about what future consumer appetite might be for some luxury goods, but when it comes to appliances, I believe that the demand will be powerful in the future. This, coupled with a very reasonable price-to-expected earnings multiple, a good name and a recent earnings beat makes me an optimist on Whirlpool's stock. (For more, see Analyzing Retail Stocks.)

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