Housing recovery fuels demand
for remodeling, improvement products

Manufacturers of appliances and products for the home are hoping to scramble for a larger share of the household product market as a modest housing recovery is also bumping up home-related industries.

Companies that sell such diverse products as power tools, air conditioners, carpet and furniture reported stronger sales in the last quarter of 2012.

That's good news for the economy in general, although the upward trend can be overstated.  Truckmaker Oshkosh reports a 36 percent rise in some areas, but president Wilson Jones warns that sales are still 70 percent below the peak before the housing crisis.

Americans are now spending more to build and refurbish their homes. Retailers and manufacturers now are cautiously optimistic that the housing market will continue to improve and help to fuel the economy.

 In the fourth quarter of 2012, Honeywell International sales rose 6 percent on heating and cooling systems.
 United Technologies, the maker of Carrier heating and cooling equipment, said orders rose 20 percent. And DuPont reports that demand for its Sorona carpeting fiber was stronger than before, thanks in part to the housing recovery.

At Stanley Black & Decker, sales of power-tool products rose 5 percent last year, a sign that Americans are investing in home improvements.

Ethan Allen Interiors did even better. Earnings from furniture sales in the fourth quarter rose 22 percent from a year earlier, according to The Wall Street Journal.