Shares of Boeing (BA 5.64%) traded up more than 5% on Monday on optimism that the worst from Congress might be over for the company as it deals with the 737 MAX grounding. Boeing shares are down more than 20% over the past six months, and even the slightest hint of good news is enough to send the stock higher.
It's been almost a year since the March 10, 2019, crash of an Ethiopian Airlines 737 MAX that killed all on board and prompted regulators to pull the plane out of service. Boeing has failed to meet a series of internal deadlines to resolve the issues with the plane and get it airborne again. And in December, it said it would halt production to deal with a backlog of jets that were manufactured but can't be delivered to customers.
The trouble cost CEO Dennis Muilenburg his job, and new CEO Dave Calhoun has been busy trying to get the MAX issue under control and get the plane flying again. His effort might be paying off. Dow Jones reported Monday that U.S. lawmakers have tentatively decided against holding additional 737 MAX hearings, instead moving toward filing a final report.
Obviously, it is the Federal Aviation Administration, and not Congress, that ultimately decides when the MAX will fly again. Airlines have already taken the plane out of their schedules for the first half of 2020. But the congressional grillings on the issue have gone poorly for Boeing, and the company and its investors will be glad to hear the process is now over and that the risk of lawmakers uncovering new embarrassing details about Boeing's internal processes is behind it.
Boeing has taken a severe reputational and financial hit because of the MAX, with the financial ramifications likely to weigh on results well into 2021, if not beyond. But the company does have an impressive portfolio of commercial aerospace and defense platforms, and should be a long-term winner.
On a day when investors are feeling optimistic and stocks are flying higher, the idea of Boeing making progress with the 737 MAX is enough to get the shares jumping. Investors need to be careful, though. The journey is not yet over, and there is still the potential for turbulence on the horizon.