After cresting a new 52-week high yesterday, Boeing (NYSE: BA) shares hit headwinds this morning, hurt (one presumes) by the worries over Boeing's role in stymieing the U.S. economic recovery.

I'm sorry. Was that too harsh? Well, consider: According to The Wall Street Journal, across the length and breadth of the country, industrial output was up. From Eaton (NYSE: ETN) to Illinois Tool Works (NYSE: ITW) to Parker Hannifin (NYSE: PH), business is booming. The sole exception: transportation equipment, and in particular, airplanes. According to Commerce Department stats, declines in production of transportation equipment were solely responsible for the fact that industrial output as a whole, nationwide, declined in March.

Now don't you feel ashamed, Boeing? It's all your fault.

Or not
Or is this just one of those cases of lies, damned lies, and government statistics? Because the way I read Boeing's Q1 earnings report, things are actually going pretty great at Boeing. Like industrial peer United Technologies (NYSE: UTX), sales were down, but profit margins jumped. In Boeing's case, 150 basis points were added to its operating margin, a 24% jump. Boeing's spooling up to begin delivering 787 Dreamliners to, and booking profits from, its long-suffering customers at Delta (NYSE: DAL), AMR (NYSE: AMR), and elsewhere, you see.

Proving the old saw about cyclical investing, no sooner had Boeing's stock hit the nosebleed P/E of 40 than out came management with a promise of up to $3.80 in earnings this year -- which would drop the P/E right back down to 20. The question facing investors today is: Is there still time to board? Has Boeing reached peak altitude, or can it climb further?

I'd love to be able to tell you that Boeing's best stays still lie ahead of it -- but I'm skeptical, at least, concerning the stock. You see, with $315 billion in backlog, Boeing does have a bright future. Problem is, crunching the numbers in the bright light of that figure, most analysts still don't see Boeing growing much faster than 8% over the next five years. And I don't have to tell you that a price-to-earnings ratio of 20 is quite a high price to pay for an 8% grower.

And did you notice how Boeing's cash burn accelerated last quarter, and how the company predicted it will burn through nearly $2 billion in free cash flow this year? Hardly encouraging numbers.

Foolish takeaway
When you put it all together, I'm forced to conclude: No, Boeing's not the villain in this week's Commerce Department report. But the stock's also no longer the bargain it once was. It's time for investors to seek their profits elsewhere.

Boeing's stock has more than doubled over the past year. How do you know when the train has left the station and it's too late to buy? Here's how. And where should you look to find other outperformers ... before they prove themselves? Here's where.

Fool contributor Rich Smith owns no shares of any company named above. The Fool has a disclosure policy.