Faster production helped Boeing deliver even more airplanes in the first quarter, boosting profits and bringing the company a step closer to its long-term goals for manufacturing efficiency.
The strong start to 2018 enabled the aerospace giant to raise its full-year earnings forecast by 50 cents, to a range of $16.40 to $16.60 per share, while maintaining its revenue outlook at a range of $96 billion to $98 billion.
Boeing's performance drove "revenue and earnings growth at all three business units," CEO Dennis Muilenburg said in a statement.
Shares of Boeing climbed 2 percent in trading Wednesday.
Here's how the company did compared with what Wall Street expected:
- Earnings: $3.64 per share vs. $2.58 per share forecast by Thomson Reuters
- Revenue: $23.38 billion vs. $22.26 billion forecast by Thomson Reuters
In the quarter ended March 31, Boeing said net income rose to $2.48 billion, or $4.15 a share, from $1.58 billion, or $2.54 a share, a year ago.
Excluding pension costs, Boeing earned $3.64 a share, outpacing an average analyst estimate of $2.58 a share, according to a Thomson Reuters survey.
Revenue rose 6 percent to $23.38 billion from $21.96 billion a year ago, and also topped estimates, which called for $22.26 billion.
Boeing is pumping out airplanes at a record pace and aims to keep climbing. Its commercial air division saw first-quarter revenue grow to $13.7 billion, a 5 percent increase from last year. The business delivered 184 airplanes.
Muilenburg told CNBC in February that the company expects to be "building more than 900 airplanes a year" by 2020 — a rate of about one aircraft every 10 hours.
"We see air traffic growing and passenger traffic growing at about 6 percent to 7 percent a year, and that's feeding airplane growth throughout the world," Muilenburg said at the time.
In-line with that forecast, Boeing now expects to increase production of its 767 aircraft to 3 per month by 2020. The commercial air division added 221 net orders in the first quarter. It has a backlog of 5,800 aircraft, valued at $415 billion.
Boeing's defense and space division saw revenue increase by 13 percent from the same time last year but its order backlog fell to $50 billion, from $63 billion a year ago. The business won a new contract from Kuwait for 28 F-18 fighter jets, as well as made further progress on its delayed KC-46 program and completed the first power-on test of its Starliner spacecraft for NASA's commercial crew program.
The global services division saw $3.9 billion in revenue, with growth largely coming from Boeing's commercial services business, the company said.
Boeing also raised its estimate for full-year operating cash flow to a range of $15 billion to $15.5 billion. Previously, the company expected $15 billion in cash flow.
Boeing's stock stumbled through the first-quarter of 2018, falling about 3 percent. The potential for a trade war between the U.S. and China cast doubt on Boeing's business overseas, although some analysts expect the company's tariff troubles were overblown. Boeing's stock is coming off a stellar run through 2017, when it gained about 108 percent.