LANCASTER, Pa., March 8 (Reuters) - Ceiling and flooring maker Armstrong Holdings Inc. (NYSE:ACK - news) said on Friday it posted a 17 percent rise in operating earnings, spurred by demand for its cabinets and easy-to-clean vinyl and laminate flooring.

Lancaster, Pennsylvania-based Armstrong said fourth-quarter operating earnings rose to $1.8 million compared to a $2.1 million operating loss a year ago. The company posted a net loss of $800,000, or 2 cents a share in the quarter compared with a net loss, which included reorganization costs, of $100.3 million, or $2.48 a share a year ago.

In the current fourth quarter, the company took a $5.5 million charge for a revision of management's expectation for workers' compensation claims. The quarter also included $6.3 million in Chapter 11 reorganization costs, compared to $103.3 million in the fourth quarter of 2000.

Also, the fourth quarter of 2001 included $2.8 million of income from the reversal of previously accrued potential preference claims that have been resolved, as well as $2.8 million of environmental and building demolition expenses at one manufacturing facility.

Fourth-quarter sales rose 2 percent, to $736.5 million. Resilient flooring sales rose 12.5 percent, cabinet sales rose 11.5 percent and wood flooring sales rose 1.8 percent. Textiles and sports flooring sales fell 13.8 percent and building products sales fell 6.2 percent.

The company said a pension credit reduction of $25 million and the increased cost of retiree benefit expenses will negatively affect earnings in 2002. Also, the company said it expects to post a noncash charge of more than $300 million for impairment of goodwill.

Armstrong World Industries, an Armstrong Holdings unit that makes floor coverings and acoustical ceilings, filed for bankruptcy in Dec. 2000 in order to resolve its liability for asbestos personal injury claims.