Still challenged by the economy, Briggs & Stratton Corp. on Thursday reported a smaller quarterly loss and raised its 2012 earnings and revenue forecasts.

The Wauwatosa [Wis.] maker of gasoline engines, generators and lawn-and-garden equipment said its fiscal first-quarter loss narrowed to $5.22 million, or 10 cents a share, from $8.11 million, or 16 cents, a year earlier.

Sales increased almost 19% to $397.3 million, driven by higher sales of power products including portable and standby generators. Revenue easily topped the $347.1 million expected on Wall Street.

Because of the seasonal nature of the industry, losses are not uncommon during the quarter that ended Sept. 30, and the company beat Wall Street expectations. Analysts polled by FactSet predicted a loss of 21 cents a share.

Briggs' power product sales climbed nearly 40% from strong demand for portable and standby generators before and during Hurricane Irene. The segment also benefited from increased shipments of snow removal equipment because inventories were depleted from the previous winter when blizzards slammed much of the country.

Sales in Briggs' engine division dipped 0.8% on weaker demand for lawn-and-garden products. This was partially offset by higher engine pricing and a more favorable product mix.

"We continued to make progress against our strategic initiatives in the first quarter, which enabled us to improve profitability in what remains a challenging global economy," Todd Teske, Briggs chairman, president and CEO, said in a statement.

For fiscal 2012, the company now expects earnings of $1.15 to $1.35 a share and revenue to increase by 4% to 6% from $2.1 billion in 2011. This implies 2012 revenue of about $2.18 billion to $2.23 billion.

The company previously predicted earnings of $1.05 to $1.25 a share and a 2% to 4% increase in annual revenue.

After the earnings announcement, Briggs shares closed at $14.49, down 51 cents.