Aviation

Spirit stock near 52-week high

Shares of Spirit AeroSystems stock are hovering near their 52-week high on news that Boeing and Airbus plan to raise production rates.

Boeing stock is also near its 52-week high, and aerospace stocks in general are up.

"They're pretty much tied at the hip," JSA Research analyst Paul Nisbet said of Boeing and Spirit. "What's good for Boeing commercial is good for Spirit."

Spirit's rebound in the past year has outpaced Boeing, the S&P 500 and the Dow Jones Industrial Average. It's also outpaced many other aerospace stocks, such as Goodrich, Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman.

Boeing has said it will boost production of its 777 and 747 models in the next two years, and it also is considering whether to increase 737 production. Last year, analysts expected Boeing to cut 737 production as airlines struggle in the downturn. Spirit builds major components on all Boeing jets.

"Everything has turned out far better than, certainly, Wall Street was anticipating," Nisbet said.

There are still some risks to Spirit stock, however, as the company has had execution problems with non-Boeing work.

"We assume this occurred because Spirit never did business with anyone other than Boeing prior to its spinout and is going through a learning curve of getting to know each new customer's quirks," Cowen & Co. analyst Cai von Rumohr said in a report.

Spirit also will face research and development costs should Boeing replace the engines on the 737, which it is discussing. Spirit currently builds the nacelles. A change of engines would also mean a design change for the nacelles, von Rumohr said.

Another risk is Spirit's current contract negotiations with the Machinists union, von Rumohr said.

While leaders of both parties say they favor a collaborative approach to the talks, "the IAM has a mixed record in contract talks, and this issue has more near-term risk than opportunity," he said.

A week ago, Spirit shares reached their 52-week high of $23.57 — up dramatically from its 52-week low of $9.60 on April 1, 2009.

On Wednesday, Spirit stock closed at $23.38, down 2 cents but up 134 percent from a year ago. During the same period, the S&P 500 gained 47 percent, the Dow Jones industrial average 43 percent and Boeing 104 percent.

Boeing stock hit a 52-week high of $74.53 on Monday, up from a low of $34.21 a year ago. It closed Wednesday at $72.61, down 91 cents.

Spirit became a company after Boeing sold its commercial aircraft division in Wichita in 2005. It went public on Nov. 21, 2006. The evening before, the stock had been priced at $26 a share. It closed after the first day of trading at $29 a share.

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