New Zealand Markets closed

Record 763 jets sets Boeing to top Airbus

Boeing Co says it had delivered an industry-record 763 jetliners in 2017, likely beating European rival Airbus SE to retain the title of world's biggest plane maker.

Boeing also booked 912 net new aircraft orders worth $US134.8 billion ($A172.6 billion) at list prices in 2017, compared with 668 worth about $US94 billion in 2016.

Airbus in December was on track to rack up more than 1,000 gross new orders for the year, excluding cancellations, compared with the 1,053 gross orders Boeing announced on January 9.

The tallies confer more than just bragging rights; they show the companies' ability to run factories smoothly, make sales and generate profit.

Boeing shares were up 2.9 per cent at $US319.16 on Tuesday afternoon. The stock has nearly doubled in the past year.

Industry sources say Airbus, which will report 2017 orders and deliveries on January 15, met its target of delivering more than 700 jetliners, despite problems with Pratt & Whitney Geared Turbofan engines.

Airbus' total is still unlikely to match Boeing's. The European firm cut its forecast from more than 720 jets in October due to delays in engine deliveries.

Boeing's orders and deliveries confirmed the plane maker's ability to hit rising production rates. This could mean an additional "$US350 million in revenues versus our forecast," said Sheila Kahyaoglu, analyst at Jefferies.

Boeing also said airlines likely will need more aircraft in 2018, keeping production rates rising.

The company expects airlines to boost passenger capacity by 5.5 per cent to six per cent this year, Randy Tinseth, Boeing vice president of marketing, said on a conference call.

With airlines already flying very full aeroplanes, more aircraft will be needed. "We're expecting growth to be driven by new deliveries, not by more capability out of the existing fleet," he said.

Price targets for Boeing's stock are rising. The median is now $US310 a share, up from $US293.50 in October. Some targets are as high as $US380. Still, 12 analysts rate it a "hold" compared with 13 with "buy" or "strong buy" ratings, according to Thomson Reuters data.

Meanwhile, air cargo traffic is rising, but a sustained gain could arrive too late to rescue Boeing's 747 aircraft.

Boeing has 12 backlogged orders for 747s, about two years' production. Tinseth said air cargo companies are interested.

"The question is when will they be in a position to buy," he said. "They want to make sure that (demand is) sustained."