What happened

Shares of Boeing (NYSE:BA) jumped 19% at the open, and traded up more than 13% in late morning, on growing optimism for a government stimulus package that would provide some relief to the troubled commercial aerospace sector. CEO David Calhoun appeared on CNBC this morning to talk up the need to support the industry, and also said Boeing remains on track to get its troubled 737 MAX airborne again by mid-year.

The positive talk gave the entire commercial aerospace sector a lift, with shares of major Boeing supplier Spirit AeroSystems (NYSE:SPR) up 20% and shares of TransDigm Group (NYSE:TDG), United Technologies (NYSE:RTX), Heico (NYSE:HEI), and Textron (NYSE:TXT) all opening up double digits.

Shares of Raytheon (NYSE:RTN), a defense-focused company nearing an all-stock merger with United Technologies, traded up in tandem with UTX's gains.

So what

Airlines have been battered by the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, with travel demand all but evaporating. The carriers have responded by cutting flights and grounding planes, raising serious questions about near-term demand for new Boeing jets as well as for spare parts normally used to keep those planes flying.

On Monday Boeing said it was shutting down its Puget Sound operations for two weeks, where much of its commercial manufacturing is located. Spirit AeroSystems, a one-time Boeing subsidiary that makes the fuselages for many Boeing jets, followed with its own two-week suspension on Tuesday morning.

An aircraft on the assembly line.

Image source: Getty Images.

The situation has led Boeing to seek at least $60 billion in government aid for itself and its suppliers. Boeing said it would use any liquidity support to make payments to suppliers to maintain the health of its supply chain for the time when demand returns.

That aid was far from certain a week ago, but markets are rallying on Tuesday on improved dialog among lawmakers in Washington that has investors optimistic a bailout package including relief for hard-hit sectors will get done.

Aerospace stocks are also likely moving higher on Calhoun's optimism about the 737 Max. The plane was expected to be a best seller for Boeing and its suppliers, before it was grounded.

Now what

A stimulus package is a step in the right direction, but whether government help comes or not, commercial aerospace appears headed for an extended slowdown. Air traffic seems unlikely to rebound overnight once the pandemic is contained, and airlines are unlikely to rush planes back into service or commit to aggressively adding to their fleet any time soon.

But even if the businesses, and the stocks, aren't likely to rebound overnight, perhaps we are nearing a bottom. Heading into Tuesday's trading Boeing and Spirit Aero shares were both down more than 67%, and Heico, UTX, TransDigm, and Textron have all lost about half their value. Even if a recession is coming, that's likely overdone.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.