Boeing's Steadiest Offense Is Defense

Editor's note: Our Pre-Memorial Day special examines military-related stocks and how to buy, sell or trade them. This feature includes a video by Gregg Greenberg, Defense-Stock Domination; and articles by Marc Courtenay One Priced to Buy; Robert Weinstein Bigger Guns, Bigger Profits; Richard Saintvilus Boeing's Offense Is Defense; Richard Suttmeier Sequester Survivors; and Richard Cox Bullish Earnings Support Defense.

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- I've had a fear of flying for some time. Not many people know this. And following the market as closely as I do, I even developed an anxiety attack on January 16 upon learning of Boeing's ( BA) announcement that the Federal Aviation Administration was grounding its new 787 Dreamliners because of the danger of fire in the planes' lithium-ion batteries.

This news didn't make me feel any better. In fact, my learning that planes actually run on batteries only heightened my fear. Remarkably, though, while the planes were grounded, Boeing's stock took off.

Not only is the stock up 33% year-to-date, but since March's beginning of the sequester spending cuts, Boeing shares have soared 28% from $76.88 to near $100. Investors wonder how high Boeing can fly.

Why does the stock continues to climb? Well, Boeing is a fundamentally sound company with an excellent management team. And one of the company's biggest strengths on offense is its defense. Many investors still do not realize that it's one of strongest defense companies in the world.

In fact, as Boeing's defense business has taken off over the past several quarters, so have its margins. What's more, its Defense, Space & Security (BDS) segment has built a backlog of close to $70 billion, 42% of which represents orders from international clients. So, the justification for the higher stock price is there.

The question, though, is how long can investors play a high-altitude game of chicken to see who's going to flinch first -- the stock price or the defense budget. Any sign of turbulence for Boeing can easily take the stock off its autopilot rate of climb.

It's the second-largest defense contractor, after Lockheed Martin ( LMT), which means that right now its best offense is its defense business. It also means that if the economy isn't growing briskly enough for Washington, any sudden decline in economic data will spur more pleas for defense cuts.

At Boeing's annual investor conference Wednesday, management outlined many strategies to keep Boeing flying for many years to come. Some of these include establishing a portfolio of affordable, proven products and services immune to budgetary headwinds.

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