United shares on pace for best day in 2 years after executive change

United Airlines 787 Dreamliner
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Shares of United Continental surged Tuesday after a late Monday announcement that former American Airlines president Scott Kirby would become president. Kirby made the switch on the same day.

United shares briefly hit its highest since April, gaining more than 8 percent on the day. The airline was on pace for its best day since July 10, 2014, when it gained 12.73 percent.

Earlier this month, United named Andrew Levy its chief financial officer. The position was vacant for more than a year.

With a new CFO and president, the added depth to United's management prompted Raymond James analyst Savanthi Syth to upgrade the airline to "outperform."

"We have increased conviction that United will be able to start diminishing its margin gap versus its peers," Syth wrote in a note published Tuesday. The analyst does not expect meaningful change in the company's near-term earnings, but said the new hires should "bolster investor sentiment."

Raymond James also introduced a price target of $65, implying a 38.5 percent upside from the stock's Monday close of $46.95.

Including Tuesday's gains, shares of United Continental have fallen 11 percent so far this year but are up more than 24 percent this quarter.

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Reuters contributed to this report.