BENTON HARBOR, Mich. — Whirlpool Corp. announced last week that sales jumped to $4.3 billion in the first quarter, up 20% from the $3.6 billion reported in first-quarter 2009. Earnings skyrocketed 141% to $164 million ($2.13 per diluted share) from $68 million ($0.91 per share) in the same quarter of 2009.Including the impact of foreign exchange, the company's first-quarter sales increased about 11%. But first-quarter operating profit totaled $241 million, up considerably from $166 million in the prior year.Cost reductions, increased productivity, better sales volumes and favorable foreign currency effects favorably impacted results, the company says, while lower prices reduced the gains somewhat. First-quarter adjusted operating profit totaled $287, more than double the $126 million in the prior year."We are pleased with the strong operational performance we reported in all of our regions," says Jeff M. Fettig, chairman and CEO of Whirlpool Corp. "In addition, we are encouraged with the 18% increase in global unit volumes during the quarter. "Our results reflect our lower break-even point, continued innovation investment and our expanding global product offerings."Results vary by region. Whirlpool North America sales grew 7% to reach $2.3 billion in the first quarter, while experiencing lower operating profits due to a one-time expense. Whirlpool Europe had first-quarter sales of $739 million, up 6% from the prior year, and operating profit of $27 million.For full-year 2010, Whirlpool has revised earnings-per-share upward to $8.00 to $8.50, and expects free cash flow to improve to reach $500 million to $600 million. "We are increasing our outlook to reflect our strong first-quarter results and our ongoing productivity initiatives," Fettig says."While economic uncertainty remains, Whirlpool Corp. is well positioned to substantially grow earnings from prior-year levels. Our innovation pipeline is strong, and we continue to make the appropriate investments in our global brand offerings to drive growth across the company. This enables us to meet the needs of more people, nearly everywhere in the world, in more ways than ever before."