Boeing Co. stock extended gains to a second week as the release of a preliminary report on the Ethiopia Air fatal crash seemed to fuel optimism on Wall Street.
shares ended the week 2.8% higher, on top of a 5.3% gain in the prior week. On Friday, the stock fell 1%.
The two-week gain of more than 8% is the shares’ best since early February, and comes after three straight weeks in the red. The stock has inched back toward $400; it had ended at $422.54 on March 8, the last trading day before the accident with the 737 Max jet, which killed all 157 people aboard.
The reasons? The initial report released Thursday on the Ethiopia Air crash pointing to a common cause between that accident and the Lion Air October crash, and that Boeing’s proposed solution appears to address the problem.
Questions around the 737 Max certification process and its flight controls “will likely persist for some time and we may never fully understand every action that took place in either the Lion Air or Ethiopian cockpits,” analysts at UBS said in a note made available Friday.
“That said, the overarching point that we gleaned from this report is that the software improvement that Boeing has been working on should prevent another accident like this from happening again,” the UBS analysts said.
Markets have reacted favorably to “the greater certainty around both a common contributing source of failure and a likely common solution” for Boeing, they said.
Earlier Thursday, Ethiopian authorities released an initial report into the March crash, saying the pilots of the doomed flight followed emergency procedures approved by Boeing and the stall prevention feature activated several times during the six-minute flight, pushing the plane’s nose down, similar to what happened in the Lion Air crash in Indonesia. That plane crashed into the Java Sea, killing 189 people.
Boeing Chief Executive Dennis Muilenburg on Thursday addressed the findings of the preliminary report, apologizing for the loss of life in the crashes and promising a software fix in the coming weeks.
The 737 Max fleet remains grounded worldwide, and on Friday the UBS analysts said they expect the fleet would take to the skies again around June. The analysts cut their price target on Boeing’s stock to $500 to account for lower cash flow estimates for 2019 and 2020.
Analyst Robert Stallard with Vertical Research Partners said in a note Friday that Boeing has been a “popular topic for discussion” in recent investor meetings, with Wall Street grappling with questions around the length of the grounding and the financial implications for the company.
Grounding is likely to last three to six months, Stallard said. Longer-term, strategic concerns include whether, given ongoing criticism about the 737 Max certification and the role of the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration, Boeing’s next plane, the double-aisle 777X, would go through a longer certification process.
Boeing launched the Max family in January 2016, the fourth and latest major iteration of the iconic single-aisle plane. The jets use less fuel and weigh less than predecessors, and their most distinctive feature is a split winglet, or wing-tip extension, meant to reduce drag and provide extra lift.
“Several investors expressed surprise that the equity market appeared to be taking a pretty complacent view on the whole Max situation, with some even contemplating taking profits with the stock having rallied back to ~$400,” Stallard said.
“We’re still taking a day-by-day approach on Max, and anticipate making updates to our Boeing estimates ahead of 1Q19 results later this month,” he said.
Boeing has said it will report first-quarter earnings on April 24. Analysts polled by FactSet expect the company to report adjusted earnings of $4.10 a share on sales of $25 billion. That would compare with adjusted earnings of $3.64 a share on sales of $23 billion in the first quarter of 2018.
Boeing shares have advanced nearly 17% in the past 12 months, which compares with gains of around 8.5% for the S&P 500 index.
and 13% for the Dow Jones Industrial
which counts Boeing as a member.