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Boeing Shares Gain on Reports of 150 737 MAX Order From United Airlines

United Airlines is reportedly in advanced talks to buy as many as 150 of Boeing's 737 MAX jets as it prepares for a resurgence in post-pandemic business and leisure travel demand.

Boeing Co.  (BA) - Get The Boeing Company Report shares bumped higher Thursday amid reports that the planemaker is in advanced talks with United Airlines  (UAL) - Get United Airlines Holdings Inc. Report to sell more than 100 of its 737 MAX jets to the country's second-largest carrier.

Bloomberg News reported Thursday that United is looking to revamp its fleet with the bigger-than-expected MAX order -- which could rise to as high as 150 planes -- as carriers around the world prepare for a surge in leisure and business passenger demand as the global economy moves away from pandemic restrictions on travel.

Earlier this week, Southwest Airlines  (LUV) - Get Southwest Airlines Company Report said it would convert nearly three dozen options for the planemaker's 737 MAX aircraft into firm orders as it boosted near-term operating revenue forecasts amid improvements in summer travel bookings.

Reuters reported, however, that United May split its multi-billion order between Boeing and its European rival, Airbus  (EADSY) - Get Airbus SE ADR - Level I Report, with the purchase of several dozen of the planemaker's A321 neo narrow-body jets.

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Last week, Airbus, which recently overtook Boeing's lock on the global planemaking, said it will produce 45 of its single-aisle A320neo aircraft by the end of the year, a 10% increase from current levels, with output rising to 64 each month by the middle of 2023. 

Boeing shares were marked 2% higher in early trading Thursday to change hands at $253.15 each, a move that would extend the stock's year-to-date gain to around 17.5%. 

Reports last month suggested Boeing could take its Max production output to 42 jets per month by the fall of next year, well ahead of the planemaker's current target of a "gradual" increase to 31 planes per month by the spring of next year, as airline demand for passenger planes continues to accelerate.

Boeing had cautioned earlier this year that it doesn't expect global airline passenger traffic to return to 2019 levels for at least another two years, adding that airline customers continue to adjust their operations and fleet planning based on those projections.

That view was echoed by the head of the International Air Transport Association lobby group, Willie Walsh, who told reporters in Dublin earlier this week that staff cuts and a dearth in new aircraft supply means the "ability for the industry to recover to the 2019 levels of capacity quickly is now impossible", adding the return may in fact take several years.