Takeover Hopes Fuel Airlines

The sector is much stronger after US Air bids for Delta.
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The airline sector was much stronger Wednesday as investors bet that US Airways' (LCC) $8 billion offer to buy bankrupt carrier Delta Air Lines (DALRQ) would mean takeover bids for others in the group.

The Amex Airline index, a measure that tracks regional, low-fare and legacy airlines, was higher by 4.7%. The big winner was

Airtran

(AAI)

, whose shares jumped 18.7% to $13.14.

Neither US Airways nor Delta are part of the index, but both were on the rise. US Air was up 13% to $57.48, and Delta was ahead by 10.9% at $1.63.

Continental

(CAL) - Get Report

was gaining 7.6% to $41.26, and

UAL

(UAUA)

, the parent of United Airlines, was higher by 6.3% to $39.

AMR

(AMR)

, the owner of American Airlines, gained 4.4%,

Southwest

(LUV) - Get Report

was up 3.2%,

JetBlue

(JBLU) - Get Report

was climbing 6.9%, and

Alaska Air

(ALK) - Get Report

was advancing 5.1%.

Sitting out the rally were two regional carriers,

Mesa Air

(MESA) - Get Report

, down 4%, and

SkyWest

(SKYW) - Get Report

, off 7.8%.