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Boeing Stock Gains As Successful China Test Flight Signals 737 MAX Clearance

Boeing said a 737 Max test flight in China "went off without a hitch" last month as it looks to have the aircraft cleared for service in the world's biggest aviation market.

Boeing  (BA) - Get Boeing Company Report shares traded higher Wednesday after the planemaker said a 737 MAX test in China "went off without a hitch" last month, potentially providing authorities with enough data to return the aircraft to service in the world's biggest aviation market.

Last month, reports suggested a 737 MAX jet took off from Shanghai's Pudong International Airport and landed in Zhoushan, the site of a Boeing factory designed to install plane interiors, as part of a late-stage test that could signal a near-term return to service. 

Boeing China President Sherry Carbary said she hopes China's Civil Aviation Administration (CAAC), which grounded the jet in 2019 following fatal crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia, would make that decision by the end of the year.

"It is up to CAAC. But I can tell you we are doing all we can to support them and we're encouraged about how closely they are working with us," she told Reuters on the sidelines of Airshow China, the industry's flagship event.

Boeing shares were marked 3.65% higher in early trading Wednesday to change hands at $226.45 each.

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Last week, Boeing said said China, the world's second-largest economy but the largest aircraft market, would likely need 8,700 new airplanes over the next two decades, a figure that translates to overall sales of around $1.47 trillion. 

A further $1.8 trillion will likely be needed to service both its existing and future fleet additions over the next 20 years, Boeing said.

The potential for Boeing to tap a portion of that market, however, is being thwarted by Beijing's reluctance to meet commitments in last year's trade deal with the Trump administration, U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said Tuesday.

"There's tens of billions of dollars of planes that Chinese airlines want to buy but the Chinese government is standing in the way," she said during an event in Washington Tuesday focused on American competitiveness. 

Boeing posted its first profit in more than two years over the second quarter, thanks in part to the post-pandemic rebound in commercial aviation and an accelerating coronavirus vaccine rate.

Boeing also noted that its current order backlog edged lower on the quarter, to $363 billion, adding that the commercial airlines portion of the tally rose to $285 billion thanks to 180 net new orders.